It is customary before a criminal sentencing for the judge to solicit letters from friends and family of the convict. Among those who wrote statements of support for Masterson to help encourage a leaner sentence were his former castmates Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Debra Jo Rupp, and Kurtwood Smith, according to legal reporters Meghann Cuniff and Tony Ortega.
“As a friend, Danny has been nothing but a positive influence on me,” Kutcher (who played Kelso) wrote in his letter, included in court papers and reproduced on Cuniff’s blog. “He’s an extraordinarily honest and intentional human being. Over our 25-year relationship I don’t ever recall him lying to me. He’s taught me about being direct and confronting issues in life and relationships head-on, resolving them, and moving forward. Danny is a person that is consistently there for you when you need him.”
At the end of his letter, Kutcher wrote, “While I’m aware that the judgement has been cast as guilty on two counts of rape by force and the victims have a great desire for justice, 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 a tertiary injustice in and of itself.”
Eric Charbonneau/Shutterstock Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Danny Masterson at a Netflix after-party for ‘The Ranch’ in 2016.
Kutcher previously talked about his conflicted feelings about Masterson’s trial, telling Esquire in January that he still keeps in touch with his old friend but that, as an advocate for sexual assault survivors, “I wholesale feel for anybody who feels like they were violated in any way.”
After meeting on That ’70s Show in 1998, Masterson and Kutcher reunited on the Netflix sitcom The Ranch — but Masterson was fired from the show in 2017 after rape allegations were first made publicly (though he wasn’t officially arrested and charged until 2020). Masterson was absent from Netflix’s sequel series That ’90s Show earlier this year, and his character Steven Hyde was not even mentioned.
In her own letter of support, Kunis — who reprised her role as Jackie on That ’90s Show alongside her husband, Kutcher — wrote of the impact Masterson had on her growing up. (The actress was 14 when That ’70s Show premiered.)
“Throughout our time together, Danny has proven to be an amazing friend, confidant, and, above all, an outstanding older brother figure to me,” Kunis wrote. “His caring nature and ability to offer guidance have been instrumental in my growth both personally and professionally.”
Both Kunis and Kutcher made specific note of Masterson’s opposition to drug use, with Kutcher saying “I attribute not falling into the typical Hollywood life of drugs directly to Danny.”
Rupp, who played matriarch Kitty Forman, wrote of Masterson being “respectful and kind” and detailed several examples of that from her time working with him.
“Thank you for allowing me to tell you about the Danny Masterson that I love,” she concluded. “I just read this letter back. It’s so hard for me to express on paper but I understand that he is facing a lengthy sentence and I really wanted to tell you about these moments. He would take the time to do it for me.”
Everett Collection ‘That ’70s Show’ cast in 2001.
Smith, who played angry father Red Forman on That ’70s Show, called Masterson “a good friend” and made note of what he observed as the younger actor’s treatment of women on set.
“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,” Smith wrote. “It was my observation that he treated the woman he married in a respectful and loving way. Later, when we were working on The Ranch, I was aware that, not only were they a happy couple, but he was a wonderful father to his daughter.”
Other people who wrote letters in support of Masterson include his wife, actress and model Bijou Phillips; actor William Baldwin, who is married to Phillips’ half-sister, Chynna Phillips; and actor Giovanni Ribisi (who, like Masterson, belongs to the Church of Scientology). The letters didn’t seem to have had much influence on Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo, who sentenced Masterson to the full 30 years, instead of concurrent 15-year sentences for each of the two rape convictions.
“Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here,” Olmedo said in court, according to Cuniff. “Your actions 20 years ago took away another person’s choice and voice. Your actions 20 years ago were criminal, and that’s why you are here.”
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