The American actor Danny Masterson, star of the hit sitcom That ’70s Show, has been charged with forcibly raping three women in the early 2000s.
The 44-year-old was arrested by detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s robbery and homicide division on Wednesday and later released on bail.
Police opened an investigation into sexual assault allegations made against Masterson by four women in March 2017.
As a result of the allegations, he was written out of the Netflix comedy show The Ranch in December 2017. At the time, the actor said he was “very disappointed”.
The allegations emerged at the height of the MeToo movement as powerful figures in the entertainment industry, including Harvey Weinstein, were accused of sexual assault and harassment. Masterson was dropped by his talent agency after the allegations became public.
He now faces charges that he raped a 23-year-old woman between January and December 2001. He is also alleged to have raped a 28-year-old woman in April 2003 and a 23-year-old woman between October and December of that year.
Prosecutors say all of the incidents are alleged to have happened at Masterson’s home.
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The actor has repeatedly denied the allegations. If he is found guilty, he could face a sentence of 45 years in prison. Two other investigations have been dropped, one for insufficient evidence, another because the statute of limitations has expired.
In a statement, his lawyer Thomas Mesereau said Masterson and his wife, the actress Bijou Philips, were in “complete shock”.
He said: “We’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify.”
Masterson made his acting breakthrough in 90s hit ‘That ’70s Show. He featured in all eight series with the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. Alongside his television and movie roles, he has worked a DJ in Los Angeles.
Last year four women filed a lawsuit against Masterson and the Church of Scientology alleging stalking and harassment following their allegations of sexual assault.
He will appear in court in Los Angeles for arraignment on the rape charges on 18 September.