Danny Masterson's lawyer says rape charges are 'politically motivated'

The three rape charges actor Danny Masterson is facing are 'politically motivated,' his attorney, Tom Mesereau claimed on Monday at a criminal court hearing in downtown Los Angeles.

The 44-year-old That '70s Show star and prominent Scientologist - who didn't show up at LA Superior Court - is accused of raping three women in separate incidents at his Hills home between 2001 and 2003.

Mesereau - who defended Michael Jackson when the pop star was charged with child molestation - has in past hearings attacked LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey, accusing her of political motives for bringing the charges against Masterson.

The distinguished lawyer suggested that Lacey was using such a high profile celebrity case to help her win Tuesday's highly contested election for Los Angeles DA.

And at Monday's hearing Mesereau - distinctive in an elegant, dark suit and flowing white hair - repeated his argument that the charges are 'politically motivated' and asked Judge Sam Ohta to ban the press from court because publicity about the case could 'prejudice' jurors at Masterson's future trial.

Judge Ohta denied his request and refused to kick reporters out of court.

The three rape charges actor Danny Masterson is facing are 'politically motivated,' his attorney, Tom Mesereau claimed on Monday at a criminal court hearing in downtown Los Angeles

The three rape charges actor Danny Masterson is facing are 'politically motivated,' his attorney, Tom Mesereau claimed on Monday at a criminal court hearing in downtown Los Angeles 

The 44-year-old That '70s Show star and prominent Scientologist  (pictured in Sepetmber with Mesereau, right) is accused of raping three women in separate incidents at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. Mesereau has in past hearings attacked LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey, accusing her of political motives for bringing the charges against Masterson

The 44-year-old That '70s Show star and prominent Scientologist  (pictured in Sepetmber with Mesereau, right) is accused of raping three women in separate incidents at his Hills home between 2001 and 2003. Mesereau has in past hearings attacked LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey, accusing her of political motives for bringing the charges against Masterson

Masterson was scheduled to be arraigned and enter pleas Monday but after hearing that the prosecution needs more time to assemble discovery evidence it must provide to the defense team, Judge Ohta rescheduled the arraignment hearing to January 6, 2021

The TV star was allowed to remain free on the $3.3 million bail he has been out on since his arrest in June.

Masterson - who is facing 45 years to life in prison if convicted - was able to skip court under a special waiver that allows defendants not to appear because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Last month, his legal team tried to get the rape charges dismissed, arguing that the alleged crimes are beyond the statute of limitations, a 'lack of due diligence' in the police investigations, some witnesses are dead and others have faded memories.

The distinguished lawyer suggested that Lacey (pictured) was using such a high profile celebrity case to help her win Tuesday's highly contested election for Los Angeles DA

The distinguished lawyer suggested that Lacey (pictured) was using such a high profile celebrity case to help her win Tuesday's highly contested election for Los Angeles DA

But Judge Erelanor Hunter - ruling that the rape charges are not covered by the statute of limitations - denied the motion to dismiss the charges.

Judge Hunter also denied a motion from Masterson's lawyers asking for the press to be prevented from covering the case.

Masterson - who has been married to actress and model Bijou Phillips since 2011 - stands charged with raping a 23-year-old woman between January and December 2001, raping a 28-year-old woman in April 2003, and raping another 23 year-old woman between October and December 2003.

He was also accused of sexual assault in two other cases but the DA's office said they declined to file charges on those, one for insufficient evidence and the other based on the statute of limitations.

Last year four women - including the three alleged victims in the criminal case - filed a civil lawsuit against Masterson, claiming he drugged, raped and sexually assaulted them in the early 2000s.

The lawsuit also named the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige as defendants, claiming the women were stalked in a 'conspiracy to cover up that Daniel Masterson sexually assaulted four young women'.

Two of the women named in the suit were Masterson's ex-girlfriends - Chrissie Bixler and Bobette Riales - while the other two are listed as Jane Does.

Bixler is being lent support by actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist who left the religion and is now one of its harshest critics, campaigning vehemently against it with a reality TV show called Scientology and the Aftermath. Remini was at the Masterson criminal court hearing last month.

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