'Crash' director Paul Haggis ordered to pay $7.5 million in rape case

‘Crash’ director Paul Haggis ordered to pay $7.5 million in rape case


A New York jury has found filmmaker Paul Haggis liable in a sexual assault case brought by a publicist who alleged he raped her in her Manhattan apartment in 2013, according to the Associated Press.

The jury ordered Haggis, 69, to pay Haleigh Breest, 36, at least $7.5 million in damages, the AP reported, noting that the jury also decided he would be liable. to pay additional punitive damages later.

Ilann Maazel, a lawyer representing Breest, said in a statement: “We are grateful and grateful for the jury’s verdict. Justice was served today. This is a big win for Haleigh and for the whole #MeToo movement.

Haggis’ lawyer, Priya Chaudhry, said they were “disappointed and shocked by this verdict”. She said they were “not allowed to tell the jury so many critical things” and that Haggis could not have had a fair trial.

Haggis is known for writing the films “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash”, the latter of which won him two Oscars in 2006 for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. He also directed “Crash” and shares a writing credit on the film with Bobby Moresco.

Breest filed a lawsuit against Haggis in December 2017 under New York City’s Gender-Based Violence Victim Protection Act. According to the complaint, Breest was working at a movie premiere in New York in January 2013 and agreed to return to Haggis. The document alleges he pressured her to have drinks with him at his SoHo apartment, rather than at a public bar as she suggested.

“Recognizing that Mr. Haggis was a powerful member of the Hollywood elite who could influence his career, and in the face of his persistence, Ms. Breest eventually relented and went with Mr. Haggis to his Mercer Street residence,” it read. in an amended complaint filed in New York County Supreme Court in July 2018.

The complaint alleges Breest was “shocked, confused and extremely frightened” when Haggis forcibly kissed her at her home and forced her to perform oral sex. According to Breest, he then raped her.

Haggis and Breest both testified to the encounter. Haggis said she seemed “conflicted” at first, but then took the initiative and “never gave me any indication that it was anything other than consensual,” the AP reported. . He said he had “no memory” of having sex.

Breest said she denied Haggis’ claim that night that she had flirted with him “for months” at industry events, and repeatedly asked him to stop during that he was making unwanted advances to his apartment, according to the AP. She added that at one point he asked her if she was afraid of him.

The jury saw text messages Breest sent to a friend the day after the encounter. She wrote, “And I keep saying no… But I guess it’s just an invite or a dare,” according to Deadline, which reported that Breest’s friend said they’d “call it borderline rape”.

Deadline reported that Breest’s attorneys have also called on four other women who have accused Haggis of sexual misconduct, one of whom claimed he raped her in the 1990s and the other three said he told them. makes unwanted sexual advances.

Haggis admitted to the jury that he had “a number of affairs” while married to actress Deborah Rennard, who testified in defense of her ex-husband and said he “d ‘great relationships with women. I’ve never heard of anything negative,” Variety reported. They married in 1997 and divorced in 2016, years after their separation.

Actress Leah Remini also testified as a character witness for Haggis, another former Scientologist. Variety said she appeared via video chat and described Haggis as “the victim here,” describing the lawsuit as an attack on the filmmaker for leaving the church. Prior to Remini’s testimony, according to Variety, both sides agreed that Scientology was irrelevant to the case.

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