Ashton Kutcher Resigns from Anti-Sex-Abuse Group Over Masterson Flap

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Actor Ashton Kutcher, still facing criticism for a letter he wrote in support of fellow "That '70s Show" alum Danny Masterson, has resigned as chairman of the board of an anti-child-sex-abuse organization he co-founded in 2009 with then-wife Demi Moore.

In a letter posted on the website of the organization known as Thorn, Kutcher said his decision to resign came after he and wife Mila Kunis "spent several days of listening, personal reflection, learning and conversations with survivors and the employees and leadership at Thorn."

"I cannot allow my error in judgment to distract from our efforts and the children we serve," Kutcher wrote. "As you know, I have worked for 15 years to fight for people who are sexually exploited. Victims of sexual abuse have been historically silenced and the character statement I submitted (for Masterson) is yet another painful instance of questioning victims who are brave enough to share their experiences. This is precisely what we have all worked to reverse over the last decade."

Kutcher and Kunis -- who also starred on "That '70s Show" -- both faced backlash for writing character letters in support of Masterson, who was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for raping two women in his Hollywood Hills home decades ago.

Kutcher and Kunis were among dozens of people who wrote to Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo in support of Masterson, including fellow  "That '70s Show" co-stars Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith, actor Giovanni Ribisi and Masterson's brother-in-law, actor Billy Baldwin.

When the letters were made public, Kutcher and Kunis both faced public criticism, and they released a video on Instagram days later apologizing.

"We are aware of the pain that has been caused by the character letters that we wrote on behalf of Danny Masterson," Kutcher said in the video posted on the social media site.

"We support victims," Kunis added. "We have done this historically through our work and will continue to do so in the future."

Kutcher said members of Masterson's family reached out to him and Kunis to write about "the person that we knew for 25 years."

"The letters were not written to question the legitimacy of the judicial system, or the validity of the jury's ruling," Kunis added.

Kutcher said the letters "were intended for the judge to read and not to undermine the testimony of the victims or re-traumatize them in any way. We would never want to do that, and we're sorry if that has taken place."

In his letter to the Thorn Board of Directors, Kutcher again apologized "to all victims of sexual violence and everyone at Thorn who I hurt by what I did. And to the broader advocacy community, I am deeply sorry. I remain proud of what we have accomplished in the past decade and will continue to support Thorn's work."

In statements posted on the Thorn website along with Kutcher's resignation letter, several board members praised his work in founding and leading the organization.

"He has been a strong champion for children and worked tirelessly to protect them from sexual abuse," board member Ernie Allen said. "Through the creation of the DNA Foundation that later became Thorn, he helped build the organization into a major global resource for law enforcement, tech companies and others in the fight against child sexual exploitation. He made a difference."

Board member Suzanne Bell added, "Ashton founded Thorn over a decade ago with one goal in mind: to protect children from sexual abuse and give them the childhood they deserve. His unwavering dedication and commitment to Thorn throughout its journey have enabled the organization to become the leader that it is in the child safety ecosystem. It has been my privilege to join him on this mission."

In his letter in support of Masterson, Kutcher wrote that he was 20 when he met Masterson in 1998 and "he instantly became a friend, dedicated co- worker, and role model to me. And has remained as such for 25 years."

Kutcher said Masterson is "an extraordinarily honest and intentional human being," that the two spent hundreds of hours working together and "set an extraordinary standard around how you treat other people."

He wrote that he and Masterson -- the father of a 9-year-old daughter with actress-wife Bijou Phillips Masterson -- "have spent countless hours together with our kids and he is among few people that I would trust to be alone with my son and daughter."

"While I'm aware that the judgement (sic) has been cast as guilty on two counts of rape by force and fear and the victims have a great desire for justice. I hope that my testament to his character is taken into consideration in sentencing. I do not believe he is an ongoing harm to society and having his daughter raised without a present father would (be) a tertiary injustice in and of itself."

In her letter to the judge, Kunis wrote that she "could sense his innate goodness and genuine nature" from the very beginning after meeting Masterson and that he has "proven to be an amazing friend, confidant, and, above all, an outstanding older brother figure to me."

"... His genuine concern for those around him and his commitment to leading by example make him an outstanding role model and friend," Kunis wrote in her letter. "... 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."

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