LOS ANGELES — Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, two of Danny Masterson’s best-known co-stars from “That ’70s Show,” went to bat for the convicted rapist before he was hit with a 30 years to life prison sentence for sexually assaulting two women at his Hollywood Hills home two decades ago.
So did other actors on the long-running sitcom, like Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith, as well as his brother-in-law, actor William Baldwin, and brother/sister actors Giovanni and Marissa Ribisi, both of whom — like Masterson — belong to the Church of Scientology.
Ahead of his sentencing Thursday, Masterson’s victims portrayed the 47-year-old as a predator in powerful impact statements delivered to the court. Following the sentencing, one of Masterson’s lawyers maintained his innocence and said that the fight was far from over: “The appellate lawyers are confident that these convictions will be overturned,” he said.
In letters to the court submitted before the sentence was issued, Kunis and Kutcher painted a portrait of the disgraced actor that was completely at odds with the ruthless predator who “drugged and raped” helpless women that his victims described.
“Throughout our time together, Danny has proven to be an amazing friend, confidant, and, above all, an outstanding older brother figure to me,” wrote Kunis, whose role as “Jackie” on the sitcom launched her to stardom. “His caring nature and ability to offer guidance have been instrumental in my growth both personally and professionally.”
Kunis, who is married to Kutcher, said Masterson’s role “as a husband and father to his daughter has been nothing short of extraordinary.”
“Witnessing his interactions with his daughter has been heartwarming and enlightening,” she wrote. “He prioritizes his family, education, and happiness above all else, demonstrating his unwavering commitment to being a loving and responsible parent. As a father, he leads by example, instilling in her values that reflect integrity, compassion, and respect for others.”
Kunis also credited Masterson for “his unwavering commitment to discouraging the use of drugs.”
“His influence on me in this regard has been invaluable,” she wrote. “In an industry where the pressures and temptations of substance use can be overwhelming, Danny played a pivotal role in guiding me away from such destructive paths.”
Kutcher sounded the same themes in his letter to the court and called Masterson an “excellent” role model and “dedicated and loyal” husband. And while Masterson was portrayed as a predator by his victims, Kutcher described how he gallantly defended a defenseless woman.
“There was an incident where we were at a pizza parlor and a belligerent man entered who is berating his girlfriend,” he wrote. “We had never met or seen these people before, but Danny was the first person to jump to the defense of this girl.”
Masterson, Kutcher wrote, raised money to help first responders stricken by illnesses after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was kind to everyone on the set. He also said he “never saw my friend be anything other than the guy I have described.”
Kunis did not address the career-ending accusations against Masterson, but Kutcher did.
“While I’m aware that the judgment has been cast as guilty on two counts of rape by force and the victims have a great desire for justice,” he wrote, “I hope that my testament to his character is taken into consideration in sentencing. I do not believe he is an ongoing harm to society and having his daughter raised without a present father would be a tertiary injustice in and of itself.”
The letters surfaced a day after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo hit Masterson with a sentence that, unless it is successfully appealed, virtually guarantees that the actor will not be eligible for parole until he is a senior citizen.
Watching the drama unfold was Masterson’s wife Bijou Phillips, a model and actor who was a constant presence at her husband’s trials.
In her letter to the court, Phillips said her husband was “a life-saving partner to me.”
“Our daughter and I are heartbroken that he is not home with us,” she wrote. “It has been very difficult without him here. Even though he is now in jail, he calls her every day.”
Phillips, like all the other actors who wrote on behalf of her husband, also described Masterson as being vehemently anti-drug, saying he “never smoked a joint in his life.”
“I know he has been convicted of serious crimes,” she said. “But the man I married has only been an extraordinary husband to me and a devoted father to our daughter.”
Baldwin, in his letter, buttressed Phillips’ claim that Masterson calls his daughter daily from jail and said he’s never known anyone in the entertainment industry “more beloved than Danny Masterson.”
“I know that Danny has been convicted of a very serious crime and is facing a lengthy prison sentence,” he wrote. “The purpose of this letter is to inform you about the Danny Masterson that I know. Danny the man, the friend, colleague, family member, husband, and father. Things that were not discussed in court but I think are vitally important for you to know.”
Masterson’s younger brother, Jordan, who is also an actor, said that after their father left, Masterson became a “pseudo father figure role for my little sister and me, even though he was only sixteen himself at the time.”
“My brother is looking at the rest of his life in prison,” he wrote. “I pray that isn’t the outcome.”
Masterson’s sister, Alanna, and brothers, Will and Chris, also praised their brother. Will also made a point of emphasizing that he is not a Scientologist.
Giovanni Ribisi, who is a Scientologist, wrote that Masterson was a “central figure in my peer group, because of his integrity, his stance against drugs, his abhorrence of violence and most of all the respect he demonstrates toward women and children.”
Other members of the Ribisi family also weighed in with testimonials to Masterson’s character, as well as several Hollywood producer/writers.
In addition, a retired New York City police lieutenant named Steven Mona, who got to know Masterson through his work on behalf of 9/11 first responders, wrote, “I have followed the trials but what I heard runs counter to the man I have gotten to know.”
Rupp and Smith, who played the parents of the Eric Forman character played by Topher Grace on “That ’70s Show,” echoed the other actors’ praise for Masterson. But Smith went further and said Masterson behaved like a gentleman.
“I found that Danny treated all women on the show with respect, not only the women in the cast, but women on the crew as well,” he wrote.
Diana Dasrath and Julia Lee reported from Los Angeles, Corky Siemaszko from New York City.