In a setback for Danny Masterson’s defense team, a judge ruled Monday that prosecutors may call a fourth woman to testify that the actor raped her.
Judge Charlaine Olmedo had previously excluded the woman’s testimony from the trial, but said Monday that the defense’s arguments had caused her to change her ruling.
Masterson is charged with forcibly raping three women from 2001 through 2003. The prosecution wants to call the fourth woman, identified in court as Trisha V., to show a pattern of alleged sexual misconduct. According to prosecutor Reinhold Mueller, Trisha V. alleges that Masterson had sex with her twice while she was passed out drunk in 1996, when Masterson was 20 years old.
Masterson’s lawyer, Philip Cohen, argued that allowing the testimony at a late stage of the trial violates Masterson’s due process rights.
“I don’t know what’s changed since the court’s pretrial… ruling,” Cohen said. “It’s a big issue.”
Cohen asked for a mistrial, as he has done at several other points in the trial. Olmedo denied the motion.
Cohen has argued at trial that the three accusers colluded with each other to come forward against Masterson. He has noted several times that they ignored detectives’ admonition not to talk to each other, and has argued that as a result their accounts have become “cross-pollinated.”
Mueller asked to call Trisha V. to testify because she is not part of the trio of accusers, and has had only limited contact with one of the three. Mueller argued that her account shares hallmarks of the main accusers’ allegations.
“I think the jury is entitled to hear from Trisha V.,” Mueller said. “To not let them know that person is out there, I think would be an injustice.”
The other three women have already testified. Unlike the other three, Trisha V. was never a member of the Church of Scientology — an issue that has loomed large in the case.
In her pre-trial ruling excluding Trisha V. from the case, Olmedo held that the testimony would be unduly time-consuming. But she did say that prosecutors could bring up the issue later in the trial, if they felt that the defense arguments had “opened the door” to the testimony.
Mueller argued that Cohen’s questioning of the three women has advanced the theory that they shaped their testimony — perhaps in league with law enforcement — to overcome the statute of limitations.
Olmedo held that Cohen’s defense theories had differed from what she anticipated before the trial. She said she believed that the defense was arguing that the three women had consented to sex with Masterson. But in at least one instance, Cohen has suggested that the sex did not take place, leaving the judge feeling “caught off guard.” She also noted that Cohen had argued that the women are seeking money from the Church of Scientology in a civil suit.
“Both of these two approaches have occurred since the trial began, and have changed the court’s analysis,” Olmedo said.
The prosecution is expected to call a few more witnesses, including Lisa Marie Presley, a friend of one of the accusers.
Cohen has yet to announce whether Masterson will take the stand in his own defense. The defense has indicated it may call a toxicology expert and that it may recall Jane Doe #2 to the stand as well.
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