Ashton Kutcher has stepped down as chairman of Thorn, the organization he co-founded to combat child sexual abuse, after the actor and his wife, Mila Kunis, drew criticism for writing letters to a judge seeking leniency in the sentencing of their “That ’70s Show” co-star Danny Masterson, who was recently sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for rape.
The couple’s support of Masterson started a firestorm that prompted them to respond in a video posted to Instagram last weekend. Kutcher announced he had resigned from Thorn in a letter to its board dated Thursday and shared on the organization’s website.
“I have determined the responsible thing for me to do is resign as chairman of the board, effectively immediately,” Kutcher wrote. “I cannot allow my error in judgment to distract from our efforts and the children we serve.”
In May, Masterson, 47, was found guilty in a Los Angeles court of raping two women in the early 2000s, at the height of his career. A judge sentenced him to the maximum penalty, 30 years to life, last week. He will be eligible for parole in 20 years, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
“Victims of sexual abuse have been historically silenced, and the character statement I submitted is yet another painful instance of questioning victims who are brave enough to share their experiences,” Kutcher wrote in his letter to Thorn. “This is precisely what we have all worked to reverse over the last decade.”
Thorn is a nonprofit co-founded in 2009 by Kutcher and the actress Demi Moore. The organization has developed technology to help identify victims of child sex abuse online, according to its website.
The representatives for Kutcher and Kunis could not be reached on Friday evening, and a request for comment to Thorn was not immediately returned.
“We would not be the Thorn that we are today without Ashton’s contributions,” the organization said in a statement posted to its website. “He has played a significant role in the impact we have made, and we are grateful for his participation over the last 15 years.”
The public outcry against Kutcher and Kunis began last week after their letters to the judge in Masterson’s case, Charlaine F. Olmedo of Los Angeles Superior Court, were published on Substack by journalists who had covered the trial.
The letters detailed the couple’s relationship with Masterson.
Kutcher, 45, Kunis, 40, and Masterson, 47, were longtime co-stars on the hit sitcom “That ’70s Show,” which aired for eight seasons from 1998 to 2006.
In a letter dated July 27, Kutcher told the judge that he did not believe Masterson “is an ongoing harm to society,” and called the prospect of Masterson’s daughter being raised without her father a “tertiary injustice in and of itself.”
Kunis vouched in her own letter to the judge for Masterson’s character and the “tremendous positive influence he has had on me and the people around him.”
In a video posted to Instagram on Saturday the couple explained that Masterson’s family had asked them to write the letters “to represent the person that we knew for 25 years so that the judge could take that into full consideration relative to the sentencing.”
“They were intended for the judge to read,” Kutcher said in the video. “And not to undermine the testimony of the victims or retraumatize them in any way.”
In the letters, Masterson was described as an “exceptional older brother figure” by Kunis and as “among few people that I would trust to be alone with my son and daughter” by Kutcher.
In his resignation letter, Kutcher apologized to victims of sexual violence and members of Thorn “who I hurt by what I did.”