Danny Masterson's ex-lawyers sanctioned for leaking rape case discovery to Scientology
A judge said the Scientology lawyer who obtained the discovery tried to improperly influence the criminal trial through complaints about prosecutors and investigators.
A judge on Wednesday sanctioned two former lawyers for actor Danny Masterson for illegally disclosing confidential discovery in his rape case to the Church of Scientology.
Sharon Appelbaum and her former co-counsel Tom Mesereau, the celebrity lawyer whose client list includes Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby, won’t immediately have to pay the $950 each as they appeal the order.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo issued it nearly one month after prosecutors said a lawyer for the Church included a link to the discovery in an email to the District Attorney’s Office complaining about the case against Masterson.
The $950 that Olmedo ordered Appelbaum and Mesereau to each pay is short of prosecutors’ request for at least $1,000, which is the threshold needed to require them to report the sanctions to the California State Bar.
The judge said the discovery at issue pertained to Masterson’s victims’ claims that the Church of Scientology is harassing them. It includes messages between the women and investigators as well as identifying information about homes and addresses in police reports that prosecutors believe the Church will use to further harass them.
“This was the concern that these victims had all along,” Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told Olmedo on Wednesday. “This was their fear for years, that the Church was going to harass and intimate them” for reporting Masterson, who is a second-generation Scientologist.
Mueller said he’s “not aware of any authority to just carte blanche turn this over to a third party, especially knowing who this third party is and what that third party’s relationship is to these victims.”
“These are experienced lawyers. They know this. These are rules that have been around for a long time,” Mueller said.
Mesereau’s lawyer, Edith Matthai, told Olmedo that while discovery isn’t to be disseminated publicly, no laws prohibit it from being disclosed to certain people “if appropriate under the circumstances.” She also said the protected information was already redacted from the reports. If anything improper was obtained, “There’s a difference between a redaction order and willfully turning over something that shouldn’t be turned over.”