Chicago

Jury orders Paul Haggis to pay at least $7.5 million in rape lawsuit

A jury ordered Academy Award-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis Thursday to pay at least $7.5 million to a lady who accused him of rape in considered one of a number of #MeToo-era circumstances which have put Hollywood notables’ habits on trial this fall. The jury additionally determined that extra punitive damages must be awarded, however the quantity is to be determined later.

Veering from intercourse to red-carpet socializing to Scientology, the civil courtroom trial pitted Haggis, identified for writing greatest image Oscar winners “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash,” towards Haleigh Breest, a publicist who met him whereas working at film premieres in the early 2010s. After a screening afterparty in January 2013, he provided her a carry dwelling and invited her to his New York house for a drink.

Breest, 36, stated Haggis then subjected her to undesirable advances and in the end compelled her to carry out oral intercourse and raped her regardless of her entreaties to cease. Haggis, 69, stated the publicist was flirtatious and, whereas generally seeming “conflicted,” initiated kisses and oral intercourse in a wholly consensual interplay. He stated he could not recall whether or not they had intercourse.

Jurors sided with Breest, who stated she suffered psychological {and professional} penalties from her encounter with Haggis. She sued in late 2017.

“I thought I was getting a ride home. I agreed to have a drink. What happened never should have happened. And it had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with him and his actions,” she instructed jurors.

Paul Haggis
Film director Paul Haggis arrives at New York Supreme Court on Oct. 19, 2022, for his civil trial. 

ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images


The verdict got here weeks after one other civil jury, in the federal courthouse subsequent door, determined that Kevin Spacey did not sexually abuse fellow actor and then-teenager Anthony Rapp in 1986.

Meanwhile, “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson and former film magnate Harvey Weinstein are on trial, individually, on prison rape fees in Los Angeles. Both deny the allegations, and Weinstein is interesting a conviction in New York.

All 4 circumstances adopted the #MeToo upwelling of denunciations, disclosures and calls for for accountability about sexual misconduct, triggered by October 2017 information studies on many years of allegations about Weinstein.

Breest, in specific, stated she determined to sue Haggis as a result of his public condemnations of Weinstein infuriated her: “This man raped me, and he is presenting himself as a champion of women to the world,” she recalled considering.

Four different ladies additionally testified that they skilled forceful, unwelcome passes — and in one case, rape — by Haggis in separate encounters going again to 1996. None of the 4 took authorized motion.

“The behavior showed me that he was somebody who was never going to stop,” one lady testified, saying that Haggis repeatedly tried to kiss her towards her will and even adopted her into and out of a taxi to her house in Toronto in 2015. His attorneys sought to assail the accusers’ credibility.

The Associated Press typically doesn’t establish individuals who say they’ve been sexually assaulted except they arrive ahead publicly, as Breest has finished.

Haggis denied the entire allegations. He instructed jurors the accusations left him shaken.

“I’m scared because I don’t know why women, why anyone, would lie about things like this,” he stated.

His protection, in the meantime, launched jurors to a number of ladies — together with ex-wife and former longtime “Dallas” cast member Deborah Rennard — who stated the screenwriter-director took it in stride after they rebuffed his romantic or sexual overtures.

During three weeks of testimony, the trial scrutinized textual content messages that Breest despatched to associates about what occurred with Haggis, emails between them earlier than and after the night time in question, and a few variations between their testimony and what they stated in early courtroom papers.

The two sides debated whether or not Haggis was bodily able to finishing up the alleged assault eight weeks after a spinal surgical procedure. Psychology specialists provided dueling views about what one referred to as widespread misconceptions about rape victims’ habits, reminiscent of assumptions that victims would haven’t any subsequent contact with their attackers.

And jurors heard intensive testimony concerning the Church of Scientology, the faith based by science fiction and fantasy creator L. Ron Hubbard in the Nineteen Fifties. Haggis was an adherent for many years earlier than publicly renouncing, and denouncing, Scientology in 2009.

Through testimony from Haggis and different ex-members, his protection argued that the church set out to discredit him and might need had one thing to do with the lawsuit.

No witnesses stated they knew that Haggis’ accusers or Breest’s attorneys had Scientology ties, and his attorneys acknowledged that Breest herself doesn’t. Still, Haggis lawyer Priya Chaudhry sought to persuade jurors that there have been “the footprints, though maybe not the fingerprints, of Scientology’s involvement here.”

The church stated in a press release that it has no involvement in the matter, arguing that Haggis is attempting to disgrace his accusers with an “absurd and patently false” declare. Breest’s attorneys have referred to as it “a shameful and unsupported conspiracy theory.”

The Canadian-born Haggis bought his begin as a TV author, ultimately penning episodes of such well-known Nineteen Eighties sequence as “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Thirtysomething.” He broke into films with a splash with “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash,” which he additionally directed and co-produced. Each movie received the Academy Award for greatest image, for 2004 and 2005 respectively, and Haggis additionally received a screenwriting Oscar for “Crash.”

His different credit embody the Oscar-nominated screenplay for “Letters From Iwo Jima” and the screenplays for the James Bond films “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace.”

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