“Crash” director, producer, and co-writer Paul Haggis has been found liable on three counts of rape and sexual abuse.
The Academy Award winner was charged in a civil suit filed by former freelance publicist Haleigh Breest, who alleged that Haggis forcibly had sex with her in 2013 following a movie screening party. Breest was awarded $7.5 million in compensation and recommended punitive damages, as reported by Deadline.
In the recent trial, Breest claimed Haggis forced her to submit to intercourse and perform oral sex on him while digitally penetrating her while she denied his advancements. The New York judge ruled that Haggis was liable of first-degree rape and two third-degree charges of sex abuse and a criminal sexual act.
Four other Jane Does alleged Haggis sexually assaulted or attempted to assault them in separate incidents ranging from 1996 to 2015.
Breest sued Haggis in 2017 and reached a landmark ruling with the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Manhattan in 2019 that sexual assault can be categorized as a hate crime against gender. The law, titled Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Law, states that a violent crime “committed because of gender or on the basis of gender, and due, at least in part, to an animus based on the victim’s gender” is a civil-rights violation.
Haggis testified that the sex was consensual and initiated by Breest, arguing that Breest’s allegations only came out in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Haggis presented a conspiracy theory linked to his 2009 exit from the Church of Scientology. Leah Remini and Haggis’ daughter Alissa Haggis testified in Haggis’ defense that the Church makes it its mission to defame its former members.
Haggis’ attorney Priya Chaudhry claimed there is “strong circumstantial evidence” of a Scientology conspiracy and that the #MeToo accusations have “utterly destroyed him.” Chaudhry formerly represented “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jen Shah in a telemarketing fraud scheme of which Shah pled guilty.
Haggis previously co-wrote James Bond film “Casino Royale,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” and Oscar winner “Million Dollar Baby.” He recently wrote episodes of “Walker.” Haggis is currently in pre-production on an adaptation of Jon Flanagan’s novel “Ranger’s Apprentice,” and also penning “The Juliet,” an adaptation of Alfred Bester’s short story “Fondly Fahrenheit.”