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Actor Masterson's lawyer denies and denounces rape charges

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Actor Danny Masterson, left, stands with his attorney, Thomas Mesereau as he is arraigned on rape charges at Los Angeles Superior Court, in Los Angeles, Calif. on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. (Lucy Nicholson/Pool Photo via AP)

LOS ANGELES – “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson, charged with raping three women, made his first appearance Friday in a Los Angeles courtroom, where his attorney declared his innocence and denounced the charges against him as “politicized.”

Masterson, 44, who has been free on bail since his June arrest, stood in court in a blue suit and face mask next to attorneys Tom Mesereau and Sharon Appelbaum, as the three women sat in the gallery.

Masterson did not enter a plea, but Mesereau said the charges, based on events nearly 20 years old, were the result of unfair hype from media outlets and pressure to prosecute his client as Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey faces an election.

“There have been repeated attempts to politicize this case,” said Mesereau, who also represented Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson in their sexual misconduct cases. “He is absolutely not guilty and we're going to prove it.”

Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller called the statements “pure speculation, with no basis in fact.”

Mesereau spoke as the judge was considering media requests to allow media cameras in court, which he approved.

Mesereau argued that the media presence would be unfairly prejudicial to Masterson and taint potential jurors.

“We want to do anything we can to tone down the cameras and the circus-like atmosphere that have pervaded this case," the attorney said. “We're just trying to protect his rights.”