On Tuesday, journalist Tony Ortega published a detailed post about A-list actor Ashton Kutcher’s recent appearance at a friend’s wedding. More than just party reporting, Ortega’s article shed light on Kutcher’s continued friendship with Danny Masterson, who is currently under investigation for multiple alleged incidents of sexual assault (four women have reportedly come forward to the LAPD with rape allegations against Masterson).
“Danny Masterson has not been arrested or indicted, and he’s making the most of it,” the Ortega report began. “On Saturday, he joined his former The Ranch and That ’70s Show costar Ashton Kutcher at a Scientology wedding in Napa Valley, despite efforts by Kutcher and his wife, actress Mila Kunis, to keep their involvement under wraps.”
An accompanying photo that was “leaked” on social media showed Kutcher and Masterson posing in a group. Additionally, a photo of the seating chart revealed that Ashton and Mila Kutcher had been placed at a table with Danny and Bijou Phillips Masterson. The bride, Brittany Brisco, and groom, The Ranch actor Justin Mooney, were married by The Sandlot actor Patrick Renna, who, like Mooney and Masterson, is a “longtime Scientologist,” according to Ortega.
Ortega further reported that, “Our sources tell us that Masterson’s criminal defense attorney, Tom Mesereau, has complained recently to the DA’s office that Masterson is unfairly unable to pursue more career options as long as DA Jackie Lacey delays her decision whether to file charges.”
Kutcher’s ongoing—albeit subdued—relationship with Masterson, and his failure to make a public statement regarding the accusations against his friend, speak volumes. Kutcher is an outspoken (and controversial) advocate against sex trafficking, and has recently spoken out about the steps he has taken to promote gender equity in the workplace.
In a new statement to The Daily Beast, one of Masterson’s accusers, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, wrote that, “Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have positioned themselves as champions for women, children, fighting against sexual abuses and sex trafficking. Public supporters of the Me Too movement and Time’s Up. Ashton and Mila were at the forefront marching in the Women’s March on March 13, 2018, in Los Angeles.”
“As much as I applaud them for standing up for women, I am left confused and heartbroken as to why they refuse to stand up for all the women they know who have been violently raped by their friend Danny Masterson.” (Both Masterson and Kutcher did not respond to requests for comment.)
Before he was written out of the show in December 2017, The Ranch was a testament to Masterson and Kutcher’s friendship. The former That ‘70s Show co-stars collaborated on the project both as actors and producers. While talking about the series in 2016, Kutcher referred to Masterson as one of his best friends, adding, “That ‘70s Show was my first job, and this guy was an absolute mentor to me, not just as performer but as a person.” The alleged sexual assaults occurred when That ‘70s Show was still on air.
The allegations against Masterson were first published by Ortega on his Scientology blog The Underground Bunker in March 2017. As The Daily Beast previously summarized, “In March 2017, news broke that the Los Angeles Police Department was investigating allegations made by three women who said that the actor assaulted them in the early 2000s. The disturbing allegations included anally raping a girlfriend while she was unconscious, and sexually assaulting and choking a woman at a party.” Masterson has repeatedly denied all allegations of sexual assault.
In November 2017, Yashar Ali reported that the case against Masterson had inexplicably stalled. “In April 2017, police referred the case to the district attorney,” The Huffington Post piece detailed. “Since then, the district attorney’s office has examined the evidence turned over by LAPD and conducted its own investigation. Despite compelling―what one law enforcement source described as ‘overwhelming’—evidence, the charges have not been approved for filing. The evidence includes audiotapes, emails sent to and from Scientology officers at the time the alleged rapes happened, forensic computer evidence and a threatening handwritten letter Masterson sent to one of the alleged victims, according to two people with knowledge of the evidence in the district attorney’s possession.”
“Masterson is a longtime member of the Church of Scientology, an organization that has a history of covering up allegations of misconduct leveled against the organization and its members,” Ali continued. “At least three of the women who have accused him of rape were also Scientologists and reported the incidents to the Church of Scientology at the time.”
A subsequent Daily Beast investigation obtained two letters from the mother of one of the actor’s sexual-assault accusers, Victim B. Victim B’s mother sent the letters to Scientology officials in 2004, detailing her daughter’s alleged assault and her frustration with how the church was handling the case.
“I do not know what to say,” Victim B’s mother wrote in one letter. “[Victim B] could be dead today and we could all be confronting the fact that a Scientologist murdered another during a bazaar [sic] sex ritual. The media would have a field day with this.”
“Where is the Justice code?” she continued. “Celebs are exempt from these codes?”
At the time, the Church of Scientology denied any and all allegations of attempting to silence Masterson’s accusers, telling The Daily Beast, “The Church adamantly denies that it ever ignores any allegations of criminal behavior, especially at the expense of alleged victims. What is being stated is utterly untrue. This has nothing to do with religion. This story is being manipulated to push a bigoted agenda. The Church follows all laws and cooperates with law enforcement. Any statement or implication to the contrary is false.”
Netflix announced in December 2017 that they would be writing Masterson out of future episodes of The Ranch, with Masterson issuing a response maintaining his innocence. As The Daily Beast previously noted, “It took the streaming service nine months from when the rape allegations first came to light to dismiss Masterson.” But Netflix proceeded to release new episodes of The Ranch featuring Masterson—his last batch before the streaming service decided to sever ties.
In response to The Ranch’s “Part 5” return, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, one of Masterson’s accusers, told The Daily Beast in a statement that Netflix’s actions were akin to “rub[bing] salt in our wounds.”
“Is Danny Masterson still co-executive producer of The Ranch? You knew you had to fire him, but you do a bunch of reshoots so you can finish our rapist’s storyline up and give him a respectable send off. And there he is on TV in the new season. Kevin Spacey? Fired on the spot. Production halted. Ed Westwick? Louis C.K.? Are there active investigations into these accused men? Do you just not believe us?”
In June of 2018, The Daily Beast reached out to Netflix to ask if Masterson had retained his producer credit on The Ranch and did not receive a comment. On Tuesday we asked again, and have yet to receive a response.
Last year, Kutcher opened up about the advice his wife, Mila Kunis, gave him on supporting women in the #MeToo era. “You know, the best advice that I got relative to this entire thing came from my wife, and she said, ‘Men have had hundreds of years to solve this problem and to talk about this and figure it out,’ and it’s probably the best thing, at this point, for me to just shut up and listen for a little bit,” Kutcher said.
To that, Bixler has a message for Kutcher: “Ashton, on February 18, 2019, I implore you to shut up and listen as we tell our stories on Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath. Shut up and listen as we recount the most vicious, degrading, and humiliating acts committed on us by your pal Danny Masterson. Acts that have nearly destroyed us. You knew all of us women. You and I were friends. So please do shut up and listen. Then it’s on you whether you continue to remain silent, but let’s be clear here, silence protects the abusers. Never the abused.”
Victim B, a Masterson accuser who has remained anonymous, echoed Bixler’s sentiments, telling The Daily Beast that, “Ashton personally knew each victim. I appeared on an episode of Punk’d, I rushed him in my car to make a flight after he finished a That ‘70s Show episode. And he knew the others as well. If Ashton doesn’t believe women he knows—we should think he really supports women? #IBelieveHer?”