Over three years after news broke that sexual assault allegations against Danny Masterson were under investigation, the actor has been formally charged.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that the former That ’70s Show star, 44, was charged with forcibly raping three women in separate incidents occurring between 2001 and 2003. In a statement via his lawyer, Masterson, who has been married to actor and model Bijou Phillips since 2011, denied the allegations.
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Here’s a look back at how the case has unfolded.
March 2017: The LAPD confirms investigation into sexual assault allegations against Masterson.
On March 3, 2017, journalist Tony Ortega reported on The Underground Bunker, his blog about Scientology, that Masterson, a practicing Scientologist, was under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department over sexual assault allegations.
The LAPD’s Robbery Homicide Division confirmed the news in the following statement to PEOPLE: “The Los Angeles Police Department Robbery Homicide Division, Sexual Assault Section, is conducting an investigation involving the actor Danny Masterson. Three women have come forward and disclosed that they were sexually assaulted by Masterson during the early 2000’s.”
RELATED: Danny Masterson’s Long History with the Church of Scientology
According to documents obtained by Ortega, the three women — who were reportedly also Scientologists — claimed that the Church of Scientology pressured them not to contact authorities about their claims. (The Church of Scientology has denied that it pressured victims.)
According to one woman’s alleged police report obtained by Ortega, she accused Masterson of having sex with her without her consent while she was asleep. And according to a second woman’s alleged police report obtained by Ortega, Masterson allegedly “sexually assaulted the victim while she was passed out.”
In a statement to PEOPLE at the time, Masterson’s rep refuted the claims. The rep said one alleged incident occurred when the actor was in a six-year relationship with the alleged victim.
November 2017: A fourth accuser is reported.
On Nov. 2, 2017, the Huffington Post’s Yashar Ali reported that a fourth woman had accused Masterson of raping her in the early 2000s.
According to Ali, the LAPD began interviewing accusers in late 2016, and police referred the case to the district attorney in April 2017. Ali reported at the time that the investigation had stalled, and that “despite compelling ― what one law enforcement source described as ‘overwhelming’ — evidence, the charges have not been approved for filing.” (A spokesperson for the D.A.’s office declined to comment to Ali at the time.)
November 2017: Chrissie Carnell Bixler comes forward.
Later that month, one of Masterson’s rape accusers, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, came forward publicly. She told the Daily Beast at the time that she could “no longer be silent,” adding, “the only way to protect ourselves is to speak.”
In her statement, she blasted Netflix for continuing its working relationship with Masterson on the scripted comedy The Ranch. Masterson co-starred in and co-produced the show with Ashton Kutcher, his friend and former That ’70s Show costar.
“I’m going to be an amazing woman who will NOT shut my mouth when I find out my rapist raped countless other women. I will NOT shut my mouth when Netflix tries to make us feel like we don’t matter,” Bixler said. “We DO matter. We ARE important. We will see justice for what was done to us, and is continuing to be done to us…and for all those who knew/know and are either actively helping this serial rapist or are choosing to stay silent…YOU don’t matter.”
December 2017: Netflix fires Masterson.
On Dec. 5, 2017, Netflix announced that it had cut ties with Masterson amid mounting pressure over the allegations.
“After discussing with the producers, we’ve decided to write Danny Masterson off of The Ranch. Yesterday was his last day of work, and we’ll make new episodes in 2018 without him,” the streaming service said in a statement.
Masterson said in a statement via his rep at the time that was “very disappointed” in Netflix’s decision and reiterated his denial of the “outrageous allegations” against him.
The news of Masterson’s firing came one day after the Huffington Post reported that a Netflix executive unknowingly told one of Masterson’s accusers that higher-ups at the company didn’t think the allegations were credible. Netflix confirmed to the outlet that Andy Yeatman, then director of global kids content, made those “careless” and “uninformed” comments, but noted that he was not initially aware that the woman he was speaking to had accused Masterson of rape. Yeatman was also later fired.
December 2017: Bobette Riales comes forward.
On Dec. 20, 2017, actress Bobette Riales, who dated Masterson in the early 2000s, joined Bixler in coming forward.
“I stayed quiet long enough,” she tweeted. “Danny Masterson repeatedly raped me. All I seek is justice and to prevent this from ever happening to anyone else as it has for some time. My truth will be heard. I applaud her strength as well. @ChrissieBixler #metoo #sisters.” (A rep for Masterson did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment at the time.)
Bixler responded to Riales, tweeting, “You are amazing. I’m so proud of you. He will never do this to another human being ever again. He’s a thief in the night, but he overlooked some incredibly valuable things we still possess. Our voice.”
January 2018: UTA cuts ties with Masterson.
A month after Netflix ousted Masterson, the United Talent Agency, a top Hollywood agency, confirmed to the Huffington Post that it no longer represented Masterson. The agency had worked with the actor for 20 years, according to the outlet.
August 2019: Four accusers sue Masterson and the Church of Scientology.
Last summer, four women filed a lawsuit against Masterson and the Church of Scientology, alleging they were stalked and intimidated after accusing the actor of raping them in the early 2000s.
In the complaint obtained by PEOPLE, Bixler, Riales and two anonymous Jane Does accused Masterson and the church of engaging in stalking, physical invasion of privacy and a conspiracy to obstruct justice, among other allegations, claiming they and their families were harassed in an effort to silence them. Bixler’s husband is also a plaintiff.
The four women claimed in the lawsuit that they were systematically stalked and subsequently suffered emotional distress after filing reports with the LAPD. They are seeking unspecified damages and demanding a trial by jury.
“This is beyond ridiculous,” Masterson said in a statement to PEOPLE through his attorney at the time. “I’m not going to fight my ex-girlfriend in the media like she’s been baiting me to do for more than two years. I will beat her in court — and look forward to it because the public will finally be able learn the truth and see how I’ve been railroaded by this woman. And once her lawsuit is thrown out, I intend to sue her and the others who jumped on the bandwagon for the damage they caused me and my family.”
In a statement at the time, a litigation counsel for the Church of Scientology told PEOPLE: “From everything we have read in the press, this baseless lawsuit will go nowhere because the claims are ludicrous and a sham. It’s a dishonest and hallucinatory publicity stunt. Leah Remini is taking advantage of these people as pawns in her moneymaking scam.” (Remini, 50, was a member of the church for 35 years before making her split public in 2013. Since she left, she’s been an outspoken critic of Scientology.)
June 2020: Official charges are filed against Masterson.
On Wednesday, June 17, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that Masterson had been charged with three counts of rape by force or fear.
Prosecutors allege that Masterson raped a 23-year-old woman sometime in 2001; a 28-year-old woman in April 2003; and a 23-year-old woman between October and December 2003. Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller of the Sex Crimes Division said all of the alleged crimes occurred at Masterson’s home.
If found guilty, Masterson could face a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison.
According to AP News, per jail records, Masterson was arrested late Wednesday morning. He was released a few hours later after posting bond and is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 18.
Prosecutors declined to file sexual assault charges against Masterson in two other cases: one for insufficient evidence and the other based upon the statute of limitations for the alleged crime.
In a statement to PEOPLE on Wednesday, Masterson’s attorney Tom Mesereau said, “Mr. Masterson is innocent, and we’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify.”
“Obviously, Mr. Masterson and his wife are in complete shock considering that these nearly 20-year old allegations are suddenly resulting in charges being filed, but they and their family are comforted knowing that ultimately the truth will come out,” the statement continued. “The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false.”
In a statement issued Wednesday via one of their lawyers and obtained by PEOPLE, the women who sued Masterson in 2019 said they were “thankful that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is finally seeking criminal justice against Masterson after a three-year investigation.”
“We are confident that the truth will be known and hope that the charges filed today are the first steps in this long journey of healing, justice, and holding those that victimized us accountable,” the statement continued.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to online.rainn.org.