COLUMN: Hello, mistrial!

Brie Coder

Brie Coder is a graduate student studying graduate student in communication and leadership and can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.

Brie Coder, Columnist

Who knows the theme of “That ’70s Show?” You do? Great! Is it OK if I change it?

A-hem. To the tune of the original: “Hanging out. In the courtroom. The surprising verdict; we did not see. With a deadlock in place, Danny Masterson escapes. We’re not all right. We’re not all right. Hello, mistrial!”

Who would’ve thought the “That ’70s Show” theme could summarize, in a catchy way, the announcement that was Danny Masterson’s trial?

Yes, it’s true. The actor known for his role as Steven Hyde has dodged any criminal charges – for now – after a month-long trial at the Los Angeles Superior Court. The trial concluded last Wednesday.

This week, I chose to step away from my blissful bubble of reviewing music to write about this trial because there was a complexity in this #MeToo presented case not seen before in others.

Although it’s bad enough that a man took advantage of three women, to make matters worse, an entire church turned its back on these women who were desperately in need of help.

As Matthew 5:42 says, “Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.” The Church of Scientology certainly did not.

Masterson was charged with drug-facilitated sexual assault of three women, including a former girlfriend, in his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003.

At the trial, Masterson pled not guilty, indicating all acts were consensual. He also did not take the stand.

Here’s where things get interesting: all three Jane Does that testified were former members of the Church of Scientology, whereas Masterson is a second-generational member who still practices the faith.

The Church played a massive part in this trial, despite the arguments made in court that it would not become a de facto defendant.

Let’s sideline for a moment and explain the Church of Scientology.

To put it bluntly, Scientology believes, “Man is an immortal spiritual being. His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime. His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized,” according to their official website.

Founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, this “spiritually enlightened,” and oh-so “liberating religion” has been on the rise of concern since 1953.

All of its conventions were produced by Hubbard. Although, they allege they drew wisdom for this practice from 50,000 years ago.

You want to talk about not living up to its Code of Conducts? Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, Reinhold Mueller, noted all three Jane Does – practicing members at the time of these incidences – were warned not to report their assaults because the Church would banish them or worse.

So much for spiritual liberation, right?

Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, brought several victims to tears and even a panic attack during the cross-examinations.

His argument stood that there was not enough solid proof to put his client behind bars.

If these women really were sexually assaulted, why did they each wait so long to reach out to the police?

The question to that answer was announced multiple times; it was fear of what Masterson and the Church could possibly do to them.

The Church forbids members to involve the police in any disputes or potentially criminal acts.

The Church also believes victims of sexual abuse brought it upon themselves, especially if they did something wrong in a past life.

In the original complaint filed by these three women in 2019, “Historically, when a member has complained of suffering sexual abuse, this disclosure has resulted in the member being forced to confront or apologize to his or her abuser and undergo a program to identify what ‘pulled in’ the abuse.”

Additionally, after filing their reports to law enforcement, the women faced harassment, intimidation and stalking from fellow members and Masterson himself.

Even though Mueller had compelling arguments, it seems Cohen’s words spoke volumes to the 12 jurors, who found themselves in an unavoidable deadlock.

Most favored Masterson to receive an acquittal for all three counts, with 10-2, 8-4 and 7-5 for not guilty, respectively.

As your reading this, you’re probably thinking, “Well, I liked his character Hyde, so should I not anymore?”

My simple answer: absolutely not! If Hyde embraces the attitude and personality you define yourself as then that’s a-ok. You can always separate the art from the artist.

Although he has a few months to catch his breath, Masterson will face a retrial on March 27, 2023.

It’ll be up to the jury once again to decide his fate. If convicted, he is looking at 45 years in prison. Will the jury make the right decision in the retrial?

We’ll see. I hope to change my new written theme!

Brie Coder is a graduate student in communication and leadership. She can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.