Danny Masterson, best known for his role as Steven Hyde on the hit sitcom That 70s Show, was convicted of rape earlier this year. After months in custody and trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison. This comes after two women finally came out about the rapes he had committed 29 years prior while he was still working on the show, which had not been revealed due to conflicts caused by the Church of Scientology, the organization Danny Masteron was a part of, preventing victims from speaking out.

The response has been overwhelmingly negative towards the former star, with massive outrage towards his crimes coming from both the internet and the courtroom. The judge issuing his sentence was quite the opposite of merciful towards the convicted rapist.

“Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here. Your actions 20 years ago took away another person’s voice, and choice. One way or another you will have to come to terms with your prior actions, and their consequences,” Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo declared before giving Masterson his verdict.

Yet, with all of the earned backlash, a familiar pair in the That 70s Show cast has spoken up in support of their former costar. Ashton Kutcher, who played the iconic Michael Kelso in the show and also starred along Masterson in The Ranch, wrote a cast letter in support of his friend:

“Danny has been nothing but a positive influence on me. He’s an extraordinarily honest and intentional human being. Over the 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,” Kutcher recalled, looking back on his long-standing friendship with Masterson.

Mila Kunis, Kutcher’s wife and the actress who played Kelso’s on-and-off girlfriend Jackie Burkhart on That 70s Show, made a similar response. Her cast letter vouched equally for her fellow cast member and friend.

“I wholeheartedly vouch for Danny Masterson’s exceptional character and the tremendous positive influence he has had on me and the people around him. His dedication to leading a drug-free life and the genuine care he extends to others make him an outstanding role model and friend,” Kunis wrote in her cast letter.

Though these letters are usually intended for a judge to consider rehabilitation and to see the convicted person as a full human being, after everything Masterson had been found guilty of, public support for Kutcher and Kunis’s letters was far from positive, and the backlash toward supporting the convicted rapist came quickly. Major celebrities and Masterson’s victims themselves also joined the sea of responses over the internet tearing Kunis and Kutcher’s response letters apart. 

“In my opinion, you’re just as sick as your ‘mentor,” Chrissie Carnell Bixler, one of the victims of Masteron, retaliated over an Instagram story. Actress Christina Ricci, though more understanding of the pain of seeing a friend do such heinous acts, gave a scathing response herself.

“So sometimes people we have loved and admired do horrible things. They might not do these things to us and we only know who they were to us but that doesn’t mean they didn’t do the horrible things and to discredit the abused is a crime,” she argued. 

In response, Kutcher and Kunis released their own apology video for the letters, speaking directly to the screen about their wrongdoings and explaining themselves.

“We support victims. We have done this historically through our work and will continue to do so in the future,” Kunis replied on behalf of herself and her husband, who was present for the recording as well. “The letters were not written to question the legitimacy or the validity of the jury’s ruling.”

Outside of the slammed responses of Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, other cast members have had a very different approach. Topher Grace, who played the main character Eric Forman in That 70s Show, did not defend Danny Masterson for his actions. After years of being distant from his former cast members, people have more respect for his less social approach. Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith, who played Kitty and Red Forman, Eric’s parents, took Kunis and Kutcher’s side, writing their own cast letters in support of Danny Masterson. Laura Prepon, who played Eric Forman’s girlfriend, Donna, did not respond to the trial but cut ties with the Church of Scientology just before the convictions against Danny Masterson began in 2017, expressing a subtly distasteful response to Masterson even before the trial or accusations had occurred.  Wilmer Valderrama, who played the foreign exchange student Fez, did not have a response to the trial either. 

The trial and its responses highlight a huge ongoing issue with sexual predators in show business, as well as an alarming amount of those who will come to their defense. The sentencing will hopefully bring justice to the victims and send a resounding warning against such behavior.

The backlash to the cast letters should hopefully caution others against defending friends who have committed such violent acts, no matter how close of friends they are.

Sophomore Chessie Bovasso is a Contributing Writer. Her email is fbovasso@fandm.edu.