US actor Danny Masterson

US actor Danny Masterson has been sentenced to serve 30 years to life in prison for raping two women.

Masterson, 47, starred on That '70s Show, a TV comedy series that was on-air at the time of his crimes.

Prosecutors argued Masterson, 47, had relied on his status as a prominent Scientologist to avoid accountability.

On Thursday, Judge Charlaine Olmedo allowed his victims to read victim impact statements in court ahead of his sentencing.

Masterson was found guilty in May at a re-trial after the first jury was unable to reach a verdict in 2022.

The sentencing hearing began at 08:30PDT (16:30GMT). His wife, Bijou Phillips, was seen entering court with family members as the hearing got underway.

Prior to the sentencing hearing, a motion for a new trial by Masterson's defence team was denied by the judge, according to an LA court official.

The actor was convicted after three women testified that he had sexually assaulted them at his Hollywood home from 2001-03 - during the height of his television fame.

The jury heard testimony that he had given them drugs before he assaulted them.

He was found guilty of rape against two of his three accusers. The charges brought by the third accuser were declared a mistrial and prosecutors said they do not plan to retry the case.

After his conviction, Masterson was deemed a flight risk and was taken into prison custody.

Masterson was first accused of rape in 2017 during the height of the #MeToo movement. He denied the accusations and said each of the encounters was consensual.

Charges came after a three-year investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Prosecutors did not file charges in two other cases because of insufficient evidence and the statute of limitations expiring.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that the Church of Scientology had helped cover up the assaults - an allegation the organisation has categorically denied.

At the time of the assaults, Masterson and all three of his accusers were Scientologists. Several of the women said it took them years to come forward because Church of Scientology officials discouraged them from reporting the rape to police.

Scientology officials told one survivor she would be kicked out of the Church unless she signed a non-disclosure agreement and accepted a payment of $400,000 (£320,000), according to prosecutors.

During the trial, Judge Olmedo allowed both sides to discuss the dogma and practices of Scientology, angering the religious community.

In its statement after the verdict, the Church said there was "not a scintilla of evidence supporting the scandalous allegations that the Church harassed the accusers".