A lawyer for That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson pleaded not guilty on his behalf Wednesday to the rapes of three women in the early 2000s.
Defence lawyer Tom Mesereau entered the plea for Masterson, who was not present in court, to three charges of rape by force or fear in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The frequently delayed hearing coincided with the inauguration in Washington of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, resulting in far less media attention than Masterson’s initial court appearance in June. His arraignment has been postponed several times since.
Prosecutors have alleged that Masterson, 44, who has been free on bond since his June 17 arrest, raped a 23-year-old woman sometime in 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April of 2003, and a 23-year-old woman between October and December of 2003. All of the alleged rapes happened at his Hollywood Hills home.
Masterson could face up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
Mesereau, whose previous clients have included Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby, said in court in June that the charges were the result of unfair hype from media outlets and political pressure to prosecute his client. The lawyer said his team would prove that Masterson is not guilty.
Masterson’s arrest came after a three-year investigation that resulted in the rare prosecution of a famous Hollywood figure in the #MeToo era. Despite dozens of investigations, most have led to no charges based on lack of evidence or too much time having passed since the alleged sexual assaults.
The alleged rapes happened at the height of Masterson’s fame as he starred as Steven Hyde on Fox TV’s retro sitcom That ’70s Show from 1998 to 2006 alongside Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace.