Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Bijou Phillips divorcing Danny Masterson: A marriage over, or a purely legal maneuver?

center>[Photo by Meghann Cuniff]

We were in the courtroom on May 31 when the verdict was read and Bijou Phillips wailed as her husband Danny Masterson was convicted of two counts of forcible rape. It was a sound we will never forget.

After Masterson was taken to Men’s Central Jail, Bijou penned a letter to Judge Charlaine Olmedo, hoping that she would give him 15 years to life in prison, and not the maximum 30 years to life.

“I know he has been convicted of serious crimes. But the man I married has only been an extraordinary husband to me and a devoted father to our daughter,” she wrote, and after attending every day of both trials.

So given those expressions of their bond, we admit to being taken aback at the news that on Monday, Bijou filed divorce papers in Santa Barbara County, where the two of them have a farm. But almost right away, we saw people saying that they assumed it was a move that was more about protecting that farm and other assets as Danny’s legal troubles now shift to civil lawsuits.

In 2019, even before he was charged criminally, Masterson was sued by his victims, who also sued the Church of Scientology. That lawsuit was not for the sexual assaults but for the campaign of harassment the women say they’ve been put through after coming forward to the LAPD. That lawsuit, known as Bixler v. Scientology, has been on hold during the trials, but with the sentencing complete it should start up again. (Scientology has already said it plans to stop the lawsuit in its tracks with an anti-SLAPP motion next.)


Also, now that there have been convictions, Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 have a year, by California law, to file civil lawsuits against Masterson for raping them.

Our attorney Scott Pilutik explained to us last night why Danny and Bijou have reason to file for divorce now before those civil lawsuits get any further.

“With the caveat that I’m not a California matrimonial attorney, and California is a ‘community property’ state (New York, where I practice, is an ‘equitable distribution’ state), and with the further disclaimer that my knowledge of Danny Masterson’s and Bijou Phillips’ assets is limited to media reports, I feel comfortable stating that there could be certain legal and financial advantages for Phillips and possibly even to Masterson to divorcing prior to his incarceration,” Scott says.

“Masterson is facing down civil litigation from some of the same women who served as witnesses in his criminal trial, and given that the burden of proof is lower in civil court, Masterson could easily be subject to sizeable judgments. So it’s in Masterson’s interest to have fewer assets in his name when that day comes. In California, unlike equitable distribution states like New York, community property owned by both spouses can be tapped to satisfy debts, whether the faultless spouse even had knowledge of the debt. I can’t easily tell whether this question is complicated by the fact that the conduct that gave rise to these soon-to-be debts of Masterson occurred prior to the marriage, even if the actual debt hits Masterson during (or after) the marriage.

“In any event, it’s in Phillips’ obvious interest, and possibly even Masterson’s interest, to get large assets (such as, say, a farm) into Phillips’ name, and soon, and a divorce will accomplish that by way of a partition or settlement agreement. If Masterson and Phillips are on the same page, the more assets are divided in a way that favors Phillips, the less will be available for plaintiffs.

“Now, if you’re one of civil suit plaintiffs you probably heard this news and thought, ‘Whoa, hold on there, that’s my money that might be going out the window.’ I believe these plaintiffs would want to intervene in the divorce as potential creditors, and I don’t know whether that’s even possible, since whether they’ll even recover one thin dime is speculative, albeit likely. That is, they’re not yet creditors. Perhaps some California matrimonial attorneys can weigh in.”

Thank you, Scott, for at least helping us begin to understand this landscape.

We will, of course, be watching the legal dockets to see how the plaintiffs react, and how much of a fight Bijou is going to be drawn into.

“Ms. Phillips has decided to file for divorce from her husband during this unfortunate time. Her priority remains with her daughter,” her lawyer, Peter A. Lauzon, said in a statement last night. “This period has been unimaginably hard on the marriage and the family. Ms. Phillips acknowledges that Mr. Masterson is a wonderful father to their daughter. She hopes that everyone will respect her family’s privacy in these difficult times.”

Bijou cited “irreconcilable differences” for the divorce, and she’s seeking spousal support and legal fees, and she has asked the court to have her name legally changed back to Bijou Phillips.

She lives with her daughter on a Santa Ynez farm that Danny had been turning into a winery after his work as an actor was ended by the sexual assault allegations. They had also recently sold a Hollywood Hills home for $6 million. How much of that has already been eaten up by Danny’s criminal defense is something that may come out in the litigation.


Technology Cocktail


“Don’t take clearing for granted. Only when you, the auditor, have assessed and run out everything you can think of and have been unable to find any further way to halt a floating needle, should you state you’ve cleared someone and only then when you have watched the Life and Livingness activity of the case for three months after the end of auditing.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1961



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links as Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. NOW WITH TRIAL INDEX.


THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker [15] Jon Atack [16] Mirriam Francis [17] Bruce Hines on MSH

— SPECIAL: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see

[1] Phil Jones [2] Derek Bloch [3] Carol Nyburg [4] Katrina Reyes [5] Jamie DeWolf

— The first Danny Masterson trial and beyond

[18] Trial special with Chris Shelton [19] Trial week one [20] Marc Headley on the spy in the hallway [21] Trial week two [22] Trial week three [23] Trial week four [24] Leah Remini on LAPD Corruption [25] Mike Rinder 2022 Thanksgiving Special [26] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part One [27] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part Two [28] Claire Headley on the trial [29] Tory Christman [30] Bruce Hines on spying [31] Karen de la Carriere [32] Ron Miscavige on Shelly Miscavige [33] Karen de la Carriere on the L’s [34] Mark Bunker on Miscavige hiding [35] Mark Plummer [36] Mark Ebner [37] Karen Pressley [38] Steve Cannane [39] Fredrick Brennan [40] Clarissa Adams [41] Louise Shekter [42] John Sweeney [43] Tory Christman [44] Kate Bornstein [45] Christian Stolte [46] Mark Bunker [47] Jon Atack [48] Luke Y. Thompson [49] Mark Ebner [50] Bruce Hines [51] Spanky Taylor and Karen Pressley [51] Geoff and Robbie Levin [52] Sands Hall [53] Jonny Jacobsen [54] Sandy Holeman



Source Code

“Age is hooked on to the body, normally, by the thetan himself as self-expression. And it is held in place in terms of engrams and secondaries. It’s held right there, man. Anything that is wrong with a body is held into it and on it by the thetan who has that body. That’s it. As long as he believes he can’t grow a new leg, he won’t have one, either.” — L. Ron Hubbard, September 20, 1962


Avast, Ye Mateys

“FESTIVAL: Completions are up! The Ringmaster was gone for a while but made it anyway. Ten lions failed to report to their pedestals. A difficult knot will now be tied in their tails to give them enough problems. Then they’ll be able to audit. Somehow the show went on and went on very well. TODAY we are going to shoot the roof off.” — The Commodore, September 20, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“I find Mission Earth insanely good, the only thing is that Hubbard uses so many unusual words, man was he a writer! you have to use study tech all the way through, then read it for a second time and the second time you can enjoy it much more, its so deep that earthlings cant appreciate it.”


Past is Prologue


1997: Chick Corea is planning to open a Scientology mission in Boston, according to a report on AOL this week. “[A] private performance for Scientologists given by Chick Corea to go over his plans to open a Scientology Mission in Boston. It was held at the Lansdowne Street Playhouse. The evening opened with Chick getting up and explaining why he wanted to open up his first Mission in Boston. His plans call for having a center for musicians to come into. Chick had ideas for seminar/performances given possibly by himself, Isaac Hayes, Mark Isham, Billy Sheehan, and others. He also has plans to open other Missions in Italy, Japan and elsewhere around the world.”


Random Howdy

“Seeing as how there’s no objective reality in Scientology, everything is a game. The Thetans created the MEST universe so they could have a playground to play in.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Found guilty on two counts on May 31, remanded to custody. Sentencing on Sep 7.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Trial scheduled for August 15.
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud.

Civil litigation:
Leah Remini v. Scientology, alleging ‘Fair Game’ harassment and defamation: Complaint filed August 2, first hearing set for Dec 4.
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Forced to arbitration. Plaintiffs allowed interlocutory appeal to Eleventh Circuit.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place at least through sentencing of Masterson on Sep 7. Next hearing set for Sept 26.
Jane Doe 1 v. Scientology, David Miscavige, and Gavin Potter: Case unsealed and second amended complaint filed. Next hearing Nov 6.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Ordered to mediation.



After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society. Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] Olmedo rules: After grand jury revelation, the court’s words for Danny Masterson’s lawyers
[TWO years ago] Eureka! Clearwater Scientology member sells quantum protection from 5G and Covid 19
[THREE years ago] How should we judge the rejection Scientology received in the heartland this week?
[FOUR years ago] Garcias answer Scientology’s cross-appeal, COSRECI coughs up dox, and a new church vid!
[FIVE years ago] Scientology ‘disconnection’ and the incalculable damage it does to children
[SIX years ago] Of course Jada Smith was a Scientologist, says principal who ran her Scientology school
[SEVEN years ago] EXCLUSIVE: Cat White’s marriage to man suing Jim Carrey was a sham to beat immigration, and was not her first fake wedding, say friends
[EIGHT years ago] L. Ron Hubbard, would-be conqueror: Scientology’s fable about Rhodesia is a riot
[NINE years ago] Sneaky Scientology finds another way to get access to high school students
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology Has Marty Rathbun Arrested (UPDATED: CHARGES DROPPED)


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 3,158 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,673 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,223 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,213 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 2,094 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,398 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,269 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,374 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,821 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,163 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,729 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,648 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,815 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,397 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,658 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,694 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,410 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,974 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,289 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,464 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 7,015 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,146 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,484 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,339 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,458 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,814 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 7,117 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,223 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,621 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,497 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 3,062 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,575 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,829 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,938 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 20, 2023 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2022 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2022), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, 15 years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


Tony Ortega at Rolling Stone


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email