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Actor Danny Masterson Charged With Three Counts of Rape

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  • Danny Masterson was charged with three counts of rape and could face 45 years to life in prison if found guilty.
  • Allegations against him have been public for years, though Masterson has repeatedly denied them. In 2017 he lost his job on Netflix’s “The Ranch” after the LAPD opened an investigation into the claims. 
  • Masterson is a Scientologist, and his accusers claim the Church of Scientology pressured and threatened them into keeping quiet.
  • Leah Remini, actress and former member of the church, said that the charges against Masterson are just the beginning of what the church is covering up.

Masterson Charged

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that actor Danny Masterson was charged with rape on Wednesday.

Allegations against the “That ’70s Show” actor have been floating for several years. In 2017, it was revealed that the Los Angeles Police Department was investigating the matter, resulting in the actor getting fired from “The Ranch” on Netflix. He is now facing three counts of rape by force or fear. 

According to a statement from the D.A.’s office, Masterson was accused of raping a 23-year-old woman between January and December of 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April of 2003, and another 23-year-old woman between October and December of 2003. Those crimes all took place at his home, according to Reinhold Mueller, the Deputy District Attorney of the Sex Crimes Division who is prosecuting this case. 

As part of their investigation, the LAPD looked into two other sexual assault allegations against him but declined to press charges. They cited insufficient evidence for one case and the statute of limitations for the other. If Masterson is found guilty of three charges against him, he could face a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in prison. 

Masterson was arrested and booked on Wednesday afternoon, records from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department show. He was released later that day after posting a bond of $3.3 million. His arraignment is set for September. 

Masterson Defends Himself

Masterson’s attorney, Tom Mesereau released a statement defending his client against the charges.

“We’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify,” Mesereau said.

“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 people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false.”

Masterson has also repeatedly denied the allegations as they have surfaced. When they cost him his job on “The Ranch,” he released a statement calling them “outrageous.”

Law enforcement investigated these claims more than 15 years ago and determined them to be without merit,” he said at the time. “I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused.”

He was fired in December 2017, just a few months after the fallout of the claims against convicted rapist and film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein’s fall resulted in the rise of the #MeToo movement, as well as a reckoning of the way women are treated in Hollywood.

Reports of Cover Up From Scientology

Masterson’s case has made regular headlines largely in part due to his relationship with the Church of Scientology, of which he is a prominent member. Some of the women who have come out and accused Masterson were also Scientologists at the time of the alleged assaults. 

In 2017, Tony Ortega, a blogger and journalist who frequently writes about Scientology, reported that some of Masterson’s victims said that the church had pressured them to keep quiet about their claims. In some cases, they say they were punished by the church for speaking out.

His report stemmed from several LAPD documents he obtained. In one, a woman only identified as Victim A said the church threatened her after she reported the case to them. 

“They threatened me that if I ever told anyone or reported him to the police that I would be declared a ‘suppressive person’ and lose everything and everyone,” she said. “Then they put me on a massive ethics program as punishment. My rapist was not punished at all. They didn’t even call him to talk about it. I ended up breaking up with him two months later.”

The women also claimed that the LAPD was “compromised” by its relationship with the Church of Scientology. Victim A said there were known “leaks” in certain branches, and added that a detective acknowledged that “some LAPD officers are very friendly with the church of Scientology.”

The Church of Scientology has denied ever pressuring these women to keep quiet. These claims, however, were brought up again in 2019 when four women sued Masterson and the church, claiming they had been stalked and intimidated after reporting him. This lawsuit was first reported on by Variety, which wrote that the women had allegedly been followed by agents of the Church of Scientology. One plaintiff said she was chased in her car by two people filming her. Shortly after, her dog inexplicably died after suffering from “traumatic injuries to her trachea and esophagus.”

The women also reported facing online harassment, being targeted for credit card fraud, and having their home security systems hacked. Another plaintiff said she had been followed and photographed, even while on vacation, and that her teenage son’s window was smashed in the middle of the night. The food truck she owned was also vandalized. 

Leah Remini Responds

Allegations of corruption and threatening behavior against the Church of Scientology are nothing new. Much of this gained national attention when actress Leah Remini, who used to be a Scientologist, left the church and dedicated much of her life and career to exposing its inner workings. Her series “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” won several accolades, including Emmy Awards.

Upon learning about the charges filed against Masterson, Remini celebrated on Twitter 

This is just the beginning Scientology, your days of getting away with it is coming to an end,” she wrote. 

Remini also shared a piece that Ortega published on Thursday morning titled: “How will Scientology react to Danny Masterson being charged with rape?” In the piece, Ortega spoke to Mike Rinder, who used to be a senior executive of the Church of Scientology International but left the church more than a decade ago. 

“They have to be careful. If they throw him under the bus and alienate him he could cause a lot of trouble for them,” Rinder said. “They might want to keep him close so they can keep all their stories straight. There are many, many people who have their fingerprints all over this, as the first place the rapes were reported was to Scientology and they did everything possible to ensure it did not get reported to the authorities.”

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (New York Times) (Associated Press)

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Judge Sides With Nicki Minaj in Tracy Chapman Copyright Dispute

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  • Nicki Minaj recorded her song “Sorry” in 2017, which featured lyrics and melodies from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”
  • When Chapman repeatedly refused to give Minaj licensing permission for the track, it was dropped from Minaj’s 2018 “Queen” album. However, the song later leaked on the radio and online, prompting Chapman to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against Minaj.
  • Chapman accused her of distributing the song to a radio DJ and claimed she shouldn’t have even been allowed to record it. 
  • Minaj’s team denied distributing the song and warned that artists need to be able to experiment with existing material without worrying that they could be sued once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license. 
  • A judge sided with Minaj Wednesday, saying her demo song falls under fair use, adding, “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”

The Two Songs 

A judge has ruled in favor of Nicki Minaj on Wednesday in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against her by fellow singer Tracy Chapman.

Music lovers and members of the industry have had a close eye on this case, believing it could have a huge impact on the music industry.

The suit stems from a 2017 song Minaj recorded featuring Nas called “Sorry.” At the time, the rapper was reportedly under the impression that the song was a remake of a one created by artist Shelly Thunder. However, she later discovered that most of the lyrics and some of the melody came from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”

After learning this, Minaj’s representatives reached out to Chapman for permission to use the song, but Chapman repeatedly refused. According to Chapman, she had a blanket policy against granting such permission, so in 2018, Minaj dropped her “Queen” album without the song “Sorry.”

The unreleased track then somehow made its way into the hands of a New York radio DJ known as Funkmaster Flex, who played it on air. Portions of the track also later aired on “The Breakfast Club,” before leaking online. 

The Lawsuit 

In response, Chapman filed a copyright infringement lawsuit accusing Minaj of providing the DJ with the song and arguing that Minaj shouldn’t have even been allowed to make the unauthorized track in the first place.

Both Minaj and Flex have denied that the song came from her or her authorized representatives. Instead, Flex said he received it from one of his bloggers.

Minaj’s attorneys then filed a motion warning that Chapman’s suit “should send a shiver down the spine of those concerned with the entertainment industry.” 

They argued that artists need to be free to create something based on existing material without worrying that they could be sued for experimenting once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license. 

“Such free-flowing creativity is important to all recording artists, but particularly in hip hop,” her legal team said.

“With that category of music, a recording artist typically goes into the studio and experiments with dozens of different ‘beats’ or snippets of melodies, before hitting upon a pleasing combination.”

They also warned that ruling in Chapman’s favor “would impose a financial and administrative burden so early in the creative process that all but the most well-funded creators would be forced to abandon their visions at the outset.”

Judge’s Ruling

The latest update to the case came Wednesday when U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ultimately sided with Minaj.

In her ruling, the judge said the rapper’s experimentation with the song constitutes “fair use” not copyright infringement.

“Artists usually experiment with works before seeking licenses from rights holders and rights holders typically ask to see a proposed work before approving a license,” she explained.

“Chapman has requested samples of proposed works before approving licensing requests herself because she wanted ‘to see how [her work] will be used’ before approving the license, yet Chapman argues against the very practice she maintains. A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”

What’s Next? 

The decision is a major win for Minaj but the dispute between the two artists isn’t exactly over. 

That’s because Chapman is still trying to argue that Minaj infringed on her song rights by sending the song to Funkmaster Flex. Chapman’s lawyers asked the judge to find that the distribution constituted copyright infringement as a matter of law, but the judge ruled that that dispute would need to go to a jury. 

That could end up being a pretty tricking case for Minaj because according to Chapman’s legal team, she reached out to Flex on August 3, 2018, offering the song. Minaj allegedly followed up a week later on August 10 saying, “You got me tonight? The song is me and Nas. Send your number.” The next day, the song was played on the radio and promoted on social media.

Minaj’s team has pushed back against some of these points, as well as other claims, still maintaining that she did not send the song.

In her decision, judge Phillips noted factual disputes concerning when Flex received the work, who exactly gave it to him, whether it was a mastered version, and more. When the trial takes place, Minaj will likely be pressed on some of this conflicting information. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Complex) (MarketPlace

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Paris Hilton Opens Up About Alleged Abuse in YouTube Documentary

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  • Paris Hilton’s YouTube documentary “This is Paris,” dropped this weekend, giving some shocking insight into her personal life and upbringing.
  • In it, she discussed her 2003 sex tape leak, noting that many laughed at her or labeled her as a bad person when she was just an 18-year-old who was pressured into filming the tape by her first boyfriend. 
  • She also said that as a teen, she was sent to institutions to improve her bad behavior where she instead experienced emotional and physical abuse that still cause her insomnia and nightmares to this day.
  • In the film, she connects with old peers from these “schools” and joined the #BreakingCodeSilence moment to expose abuses at “troubled teen” institution

“This is Paris” 

Paris Hilton released a YouTube documentary on Sunday titled “This is Paris” where she shared some very private details about her fame and upbringing.

Hilton, for those who don’t know, is a socialite, business mogul, and former reality TV star. Her great grandfather founded the Hilton Hotels, and people often consider her the “original influencer” or recognize her as someone “famous for being famous.” 

But in her YouTube Originals documentary, she admitted that the Paris the public has seen throughout her career is more of a character she plays rather than who she really is. In this project, she peels back the layers of her celebrity image to show more about the moments that shaped her.

Here are some of the biggest revelations to come out of the film.

She Says She Was Pressured to Film Her Sex Tape 

One moment that caught a lot of attention was when she spoke about her sex tape. In 2003, the tape of her and her ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon leaked, causing a huge scandal at the time.

In the documentary, she talked about people’s reactions, saying, “That was a private moment with a teenage girl not in her right headspace, but everyone was watching it and laughing like it’s something funny.”

“If that happened today, it would not be the same story at all. But they made me the bad person like I did something bad.”

She went on to describe how she was pressured into filming that tape, saying: “It was my first real relationship, [I was] 18, I was just so in love with him and I wanted to make him happy. I just remember him pulling out the camera, and he was kind of pressuring me into. Like, ‘Oh, you’re so boring. Do you want me to just call someone else? No one will ever see it.’”

“It was like being electronically raped, and for people to think that I [leaked] it on purpose? Because after that, all of these leaked tapes were coming out and it almost became like a blueprint to become famous. I didn’t need to do that. I always had a plan.”

Now, she says she struggles to trust people, especially in relationships, but not just because of this experience. She said she went through five abuse relationships in her life and also opened up about what some of that abuse looked like in the documentary.

She Says She Suffered Abuse as a Teen 

The most shocking information to come out of the film has to do with the emotional and physical abuse she allegedly experienced as a teen. 

At one point, Hilton revealed that she got a fake ID and fell into partying, to her parent’s horror. After having enough of her behavior, they sent her to what were called “emotional growth schools.”

In one location, she said she would have to do manual labor all day and after running away, she was beaten by camp workers. She was then sent to another location where she ran away once more.

She even described how she was sent to these schools, recalling a time when she was woken up at her home during the night. “I thought I was being kidnapped. I started screaming for my mom and dad — no one came,” Hilton said. “As they were taking me, I saw my parents standing by their door crying. I was like, ‘Please help me, what’s happening?’ And no one would tell me what was happening.”

That time, she ended up being taken to Provo Canyon School in Utah, which she described as the “worst of the worst.”

“You’re sitting on a chair staring at a wall all day long getting yelled at or hit. I felt like a lot of the people who worked there got off on torturing children and seeing them naked,” she said of the place.

She claimed she and her peers were regularly given pills that would make her so tired. When she tried to avoid taking them, she said she was sent to solitary confinement. She said those sent to confinement were sent without clothing, sometimes for 20 hours at a time.

During her 11 months there, Hilton said the only thing that kept her going “was thinking about what I wanted to do and who I wanted to become when I got out of there.”

“I was going to do everything in my power to be so successful that my parents could never control me again,” she said, but to this day, she suffers from insomnia and recurring nightmares because of the experiences. 

Her Parents Were Unaware of the Abuse  

Hilton admitted that she had so much anger towards her parents for sending her to these places, but the film also revealed how her parents were unaware of the abuse. In fact, Hilton’s mother even learns some of the claims on camera for the first time. 

At the end of the documentary, Hilton talked to her mother about why they’ve never discussed her trauma before, saying “They were constantly being abusive in every way. But I couldn’t tell you guys because every time I tried, I would get punished by them. Or they would say, ‘we’re just going to tell your parents you’re a liar and they’re not going to believe you.’”

She Wants to Fight Against “Troubled Teen” Institutions 

On top of opening up about this trauma, Hilton also revealed her newfound passion for fighting against these types of programs. 

Towards the end of the doc, she tracked down some of her old camp peers who share their own stories of abuse at Provo Canyon School. They gathered to shoot an emotional campaign for the “#BreakCodeSilence” movement in an effort to expose abuses at “troubled teen” institutions.

In an attempt to address this wave of attention, Provo Canyon has updated the top of its website to say: “We are aware of a new documentary referencing Provo Canyon School. Please note that PCS was sold by its previous ownership in August 2000. We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to that time. We are committed to providing high-quality care to youth with special, and often complex, emotional, behavioral and psychiatric needs.”

The school gave a similar statement to Variety while still boasted itself as a treatment center for youth between 8-18. It also added: “We do not condone or promote any form of abuse. Any and all alleged/suspected abuse is reported to our state regulatory authorities, law enforcement and Child Protective Services immediately as required.”

Though the documentary may be over, it seems like Hilton plans to continue speaking out against Provo Canyon and other institutions like it. According to Fortune, she said, “My ultimate goal is to shut these places down.” 

For now, she’s also working on her other flagship ventures in the beauty and travel industries with the ultimate goal of earring $1 billion one day.

See what others are saying: (PEOPLE) (Fortune) (Variety

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Academy Sets Diversity and Inclusion Requirements for Best Picture

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  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has set new diversity standards that films will have to meet in order to be eligible for the Best Picture Oscar come 2024. 
  • There are four possible standards. Films that want to be considered must fulfill at least two of them.
  • These standards have been criticized by some who think the Academy is prioritizing a diversity checklist over the quality of the films.
  • Others have praised the Academy for encouraging inclusivity, but many experts think these new standards will actually be easy for many studios to meet, and may not change much about what films are eligible.

New Diversity Standards

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Tuesday unveiled new diversity and inclusion standards that films must partially meet in order to be eligible for Best Picture in 2024 for the 96th Academy Awards. 

There are four standards: A. Onscreen Representation, B. Creative Leadership and Project Team, C. Industry Access and Opportunities, and D. Audience Development. Films must fulfill two of the four standards to be considered for the top prize. The first two standards have three possible checks, and if a movie meets just one of those checks, it fulfills the standard. There are two pieces of criteria in the third standard that must be met in order for it to be fulfilled, and the final one has just one benchmark.

Read the full criteria listed at this bottom of this story.

This change comes as Hollywood, and many other industries, are facing a reckoning when it comes to racial justice and representation. The Oscars is no stranger to this issue; #OscarsSoWhite has plagued the show for several years, and the Academy has vowed to address the lack of diversity among its nominees. Over the past several years, it has added large new classes to its voting body, including larger percentages of women and people of color. These diversity standards, however, are their biggest leap when it comes to inclusion. 

These standards currently only apply to Best Picture. Films that are in the specialty feature categories and are also submitted for Best Picture will be addressed separately. While this rule does not go into official effect until 2024, starting in 2022 films must submit inclusion standards to be eligible, but they do not have to meet them. This effort is part of Academy Aperture 2025, the group’s initiative to further inclusion in the entertainment industry. 

“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement. “The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

Response to Announcement

These rules were not introduced without their share of criticism. Many thought that by applying a checklist to filmmaking, the Academy is interfering with art and organic creation.

“Another award meant to discern artistic exceptionalism that will now simply recognize the latest definition of social progressiveness,” said former Esquire editor Jay Fielden. “The moral and social obligations of art can’t be enforced by bureaucrats.”

Others also were concerned that by incentivizing diversity with accolades, white filmmakers might start making projects with diverse leads for the wrong reasons, leading to unproductive forms of representation. 

However, others thought that since films only had to meet two of the four standards, and many are not that difficult to fulfill, that these new criteria will just encourage filmmakers to and the Academy itself to be more open-minded and inclusive. 

Writer and columnist Mark Harris posted a Twitter thread about these standards, saying that in the years leading up to 2024, the Academy will likely have to iron out issues with this new policy. 

“I think it will be hard to argue that these standards are excessively rigorous or steep, especially with rules that state that a movie only has to meet parts of 2 out of 4 standards to qualify,” he wrote. Harris also added that larger studios with bigger marketing teams and employment opportunities will likely have an easier time meeting these standards than smaller independent studios. 

“Internships paid for by the studio plus gay people and women in the marketing dept. and the job is done,” he added. “It’s indie moviemakers who will have to meet much more rigorous standards of casting and or production staffing if they want to guarantee eligibility.”

Harris also pointed out that a movie could theoretically meet these standards without hiring a non-white person.

“So…is this stasis disguised as progress?” he asked 

Will This Work?

It will be impossible to fully answer Harris’ question until the standards are applied, but the Academy did base their criteria off of a template that the British Film Institute is already using at the BAFTAs, which is essentially their version of the Oscars. While those standards fall into the same four categories, they do differ in their details, so you can’t make an exact one-to-one comparison when it comes to the potential impact of the Academy’s plans.

As far as this year’s BAFTAs was concerned, the BBC wrote that the standards “didn’t prevent the nominees for best British film this year being dominated by stories predominantly about, made by, and starring white men.”

Best British Film went to “1917,” a film about World War I starring white men and directed by a white man. However, the film was co-written by a woman and had some female producers, so it met the Creative Leadership and Project Team standard and the Industry Access and Opportunities standard as well. It is unclear if this would translate into them meeting that standard per the Academy’s criteria because the details in both are different. 

Full Critera

For the 96th Oscars (2024), a film must meet TWO out of FOUR of the following standards to be deemed eligible:

STANDARD A:  ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION, THEMES AND NARRATIVES
To achieve Standard A, the film must meet ONE of the following criteria:

A1. Lead or significant supporting actors: At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

A2. General ensemble cast: At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

A3. Main storyline/subject matter: The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD B: CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND PROJECT TEAM
To achieve Standard B, the film must meet ONE of the criteria below:

B1. Creative leadership and department heads: At least two of the following creative leadership positions and department heads—Casting Director, Cinematographer, Composer, Costume Designer, Director, Editor, Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, Producer, Production Designer, Set Decorator, Sound, VFX Supervisor, Writer—are from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

AND At least one of those positions must belong to the following underrepresented racial or ethnic group:
• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

B2. Other key roles: At least six other crew/team and technical positions (excluding Production Assistants) are from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. These positions include but are not limited to First AD, Gaffer, Script Supervisor, etc.

B3. Overall crew composition: At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD C:  INDUSTRY ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITIES
To achieve Standard C, the film must meet BOTH criteria below:

C1. Paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities: The film’s distribution or financing company has paid apprenticeships or internships that are from the following underrepresented groups and satisfy the criteria below:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

The major studios/distributors are required to have substantive, ongoing paid apprenticeships/internships inclusive of underrepresented groups (must also include racial or ethnic groups) in most of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

The mini-major or independent studios/distributors must have a minimum of two apprentices/interns from the above underrepresented groups (at least one from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group) in at least one of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

C2. Training opportunities and skills development (crew): The film’s production, distribution and/or financing company offers training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD D: AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
To achieve Standard D, the film must meet the criterion below:

  • D1. Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution: The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the following underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.
  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing
See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Deadline) (Los Angeles Times)

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