Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis may have hoped their character statement in support of Danny Masterson would never see the light of day, but their unreserved praise of the convicted rapist has almost overshadowed news of the star Scientologist's sentencing.
In May this year, Hollywood actor Danny Masterson was found guilty of raping two women.
In a bid for leniency in his prison sentence, statements from 50 people were submitted to the court, attesting to Masterson's good character.
Two of those came from his That '70s Show co-stars Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.
Journalist Tony Ortega published their character references on his website, and it caused an immediate firestorm.
"These letters were written post-conviction that their friend had been convicted of two violent rapes, and they had still written a letter to the judge asking for leniency," he told Tara Brown.
The furore forced the celebrity couple to issue an apology, saying they did not intend to re-traumatise the victims.
"The letters were not written to question the legitimacy of the judicial system or the validity of the jury's ruling," Kunis said in a video published on social media.
"They were intended for the judge to read, and not to undermine the testimony of the victims.
"We would never want to do that, and we're sorry if that has taken place."
Kutcher adds: "We are aware of the pain that has been caused by the character letters we wrote on behalf of Danny Masterson."
Ortega felt people would be interested to know what the celebrity couple had written about their convicted friend.
The publication of the letters also revealed Kutcher and Kunis' long and layered relationship with Masterson, that developed on the set of That '70s Show, the hit series that ran for eight seasons and wrapped in 2006.
Kutcher and Masterson were known to be inseparable and partied together frequently.
"Danny at that time was openly calling himself 'DJ Donkey Punch'. This is a sexual slang term of assault, and he wore it like a badge," Ortega said.
"What I'd like to hear from Ashton is when your friend was calling himself 'DJ Donkey Punch' and was acting this way around women, did you really not know what was going on?"
Masterson is a well-known member of the Church of Scientology, information that played a significant part in the rape trial.
"For years and years, Danny Masterson preyed on Scientology women because he knew Scientology would protect him," Ortega said.
"Scientology made everything worse, re-victimised them time and time again."
Neither Kunis nor Kutcher identify with the church but Masterson would recruit the couple to perform at Scientology events, including a Christmas party benefiting the Hollywood Police Activities League at the church's Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles in 2005.
Despite the court finding Masterson guilty of raping women, and several ex-Scientologists revealing the Church's treatment of women in the past, Kunis stated support for victims in the recorded apology.
"Our heart goes out to every single person who's been a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse or rape," she said.
The judge did not agree with Masterson's good character references, and sentenced him to 30 years in jail.
But Kutcher and Kunis' judge of character is now in question.
"They have branded themselves as activists for victims, but would write letters on behalf of a person who had been convicted already," Ortega said.
"He may have appeared to be such a great guy on set while he was terrorising women. That's just one of those mysteries — that we can have those completely different faces in different situations."
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