After a series of delays, “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson has been ordered to appear in court May 18 to face testimony at a preliminary hearing in his Los Angeles rape case.
A judge set the date Wednesday, noting Masterson was first charged in the felony criminal case last June.
“This case has been pending now coming up to a year,” Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo said, advising defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau and Assistant District Attorney Reinhold Mueller that she planned to hold the hearing “within the statutory period” regardless of any further requests for delay or issues raised at an April 20 status hearing.
“Ultimately, at the end of that day, that’s what it is. It’s not complicated,” she said.
In the absence of an indictment, California prosecutors must show enough evidence at a preliminary hearing to convince a judge there’s probable cause to justify holding a trial.
Olmedo said Masterson must show up in person May 18 for the prosecution’s presentation, which is expected to last three to four days.
Mesereau has been appearing on the actor’s behalf over the last few months due to the coronavirus pandemic and entered Masterson’s not-guilty plea himself in January.
Before the hearing started Wednesday, Mesereau argued that media should be excluded because he considered prior coverage of the case “negative” and “not well-balanced,” and he argued such coverage might taint the jury pool for a possible trial.
“We want a fair trial for our client,” he argued before Olmedo denied his motion.
Masterson, 45, is accused of raping three women in separate incidents at his Hollywood Hills home.
According to prosecutors, Masterson sexually assaulted the first victim, an unidentified 23-year-old woman, between January and December 2001.
He then allegedly raped a 28-year-old woman in April 2003 and a 23-year-old woman between October and December of the same year, prosecutors said.
If convicted as charged, he faces up to 45 years to life in state prison.
Masterson previously tried to get the case tossed by arguing the alleged incidents were too old to prosecute, but the court rejected his claims.
The criminal case followed after four women sued Masterson in 2019, saying he sexually assaulted them and then conspired with the Church of Scientology to cover up the abuse and “systematically stalk” and harass them.
Two of the women revealed their names, while the other two remained Jane Does.
Plaintiffs Chrissie Carnell Bixler and Marie Bobette Riales allege Masterson drugged and raped them while they were unconscious.
A judge ruled in December that Bixler and the two Jane Does signed arbitration agreements with the Church of Scientology when they were members, so the court was obligated to divert the case to church-selected arbitrators.
Masterson previously called the rape claims “outrageous” and said he was “very disappointed” when he was written off the Netflix show “The Ranch” in the wake of the women’s allegations.