Opera Star David Daniels Trial for Rape of Aspiring Singer Takes Unexpected Turn

The rape trial of star opera singer David Daniels opened in a surprising way on Friday when he and his husband suddenly pleaded guilty to a pair of sexual assault charges in relation to the drugging and rape of an aspiring musician in 2010.

Opening arguments in Daniels and husband Scott Walters’ trial were slated to begin in Houston—the same city where Samuel Schultz alleged the then-unmarried couple raped him while he was unconscious. But, the Houston Chronicle reports, the couple “hurried in and out of the courtroom” just as things were about to get underway and instead reached a plea deal to halt the trial before it ever began.

As part of the deal, Daniels and Walters pleaded down to a charge of sexual assault of an adult, a second-degree felony. That meant they avoided a possible conviction on their original charges of aggravated sexual assault—a first-degree felony that carries harsher penalties, including a possible life-sentence.

The plea deal ensures they’ll both avoid prison and instead spend eight years on probation and register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

A mugshot of Scott Walters staring forward.

Scott Walters’ mugshot from 2019.

Washtenaw County Jail

Schultz’ sexual assault occurred in 2010, reportedly after he had watched Daniels perform and had a drink with him at a Houston bar. He came forward with allegations in 2018 at the height of the #MeToo movement. Since there’s no statute of limitations for rape in Texas, prosecutors arrested Walters, 40, and Daniels, 57, in 2019.

The couple were released on bail and initially insisted the encounter was consensual, but the allegations still shattered Daniels’ career. The once-prominent countertenor was fired from his position as a tenured professor at the University of Michigan in 2020, and was dropped by a popular opera house in San Francisco where he regularly performed.

At the peak of Daniels’ popularity, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an opera super fan, officiated his and Walters’ wedding in 2014. But Daniels, who performed on some of opera’s biggest stages, like the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and the Royal Opera in London, is now one of the most prominent classical stars to be convicted amid the #MeToo movement.

Daniels on stage in Houston Grand Opera’s Julius Caesar production in 2003.

Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty

In a statement Friday, Schultz described the rape and its aftermath as a “nightmarish ordeal.” An up-and-coming singer himself, he said he’d idolized Daniels, and willingly agreed to go home with him after meeting at the bar. Once there, however, he said he was served a drink that made him lose consciousness. He awoke the next morning naked, alone and bleeding.

In court records obtained by the Chronicle, Schultz said he recalled only glimpses of the night, including a memory of watching porn on TV and another of Daniels raping him.

Schultz, a baritone, was a 23-year-old student at Rice University at the time. Now 36, he said he was scared that coming forward with allegations may have derailed his career as a musician.

“I am glad that the defendants have acknowledged by their guilty pleas the truth of my traumatic experience, and that this portion of my nightmarish ordeal has finally concluded,” Shultz said in a statement to The New York Times on Friday.

Daniels and Walters did not make a statement Friday.

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