Scott Bairstow could have been channeling his Party of Five role as Neve Campbell's abusive boyfriend. Talking on the phone to a teenage girl who was threatening to expose their sexual relationship, he said, "If you were to tell anyone, I would be thrown into jail for 10 years." "Are you serious?" she replied. Said Bairstow: "Yeah, I'm not kidding around. It would destroy my life."

The damage might already have been done. The call had been set up by Snohomish County, Wash., police, and soon after, Bairstow, 33, was charged with second-degree child rape. In papers filed May 20, local prosecutors claim that in 1998 he raped the girl, who was 12 at the time, and had three more sexual encounters with her until 2001. This allegedly occurred while Bairstow lived in Mukilteo, Wash., with his then wife, actress Marty Rich, 28, who is related to the victim. (The couple, who divorced in 2001, have two sons, Casey, 9, and Dalton, 4.) "I'm shocked, absolutely," says Zoe Clarke-Williams, who directed Bairstow in the 2002 drama New Best Friend. "He was a family man, a devoted father."

According to court papers, Bairstow, who also appeared in last year's Tuck Everlasting, had recently begun calling the girl, now 17, for phone sex. In April she finally told her family. They went to the police, who obtained authorization for a one-party-consent phone call and recorded the conversation between Bairstow and the girl.

Bairstow, who's currently living in L.A., has declined to comment on the charges, but his lawyer Mitchell Egers says there is "no question" his client will plead not guilty at his June 3 arraignment. While "upset," the actor "is confident that everything will result in his vindication," says Egers, adding that the phone call excerpts have been "taken out of context." One thing is indisputable: If Bairstow is convicted, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 8½ years.