Paul Haggis Takes Witness Stand In Sexual Assault Trial For First Time – Deadline

UPDATED with extra particulars: Paul Haggis took the witness stand in the present day in his Manhattan trial for sexual assault, and the Oscar-winning Crash filmmaker and former Church of Scientology member’s first phrases when requested by his lawyer Priya Chaudhry the way it felt to be testifying had been: “I’m incredibly nervous, of course, and I’m very happy. Because for five years I’ve been unable to clear my name.”

Prosecution lawyer Ilann Maazel instantly objected, arguing that Haggis assertion was irrelevant, however was overruled by Judge Sabrina Kraus.

Later on Wednesday, Haggis started telling jurors his model of what occurred the evening he introduced a film publicist, Haleigh Breest, to his condo in Manhattan — a go to in January 2013 that Breest says was a rape and led to her lawsuit in opposition to the filmmaker in New York civil court docket. 

Almost instantly, their accounts diverged.

After tearful testimony and occasional name-dropping about his household life, Scientology previous and Hollywood career, Haggis spoke in additional element about Breest. 

“I thought she was adorable,” Haggis mentioned when questioned by his lawyer, Priya Chaudhry. He mentioned they met round 2010 after which hit it off at a celebration for a Hunger Games film. “I know I liked her,” he mentioned. “She liked me. We seemed to talk a lot. I was flirting, She seemed to be flirting, and there seemed to be a mutual attraction.”

Haggis sat in a raised witness stand immediately throughout from Breest, who sat behind her attorneys on the very again of the courtroom properly, trying straight forward. In between them was Chaudhry. 

Haggis spoke so softly that the choose, Sabrina Kraus, mentioned she had problem listening to. Haggis apologized and mentioned, “I have a habit of speaking quickly and mumbling.” Asked by Kraus to enunciate “more slowly, loudly and clearly,” he thanked the choose and mentioned, “I will do my very best.”

Haggis mentioned that till Breest sued him in late 2017, he had thought they remained “friendly” 4 years after the evening she spent at his condo. “She never gave me any indication it was anything other than consensual,” he mentioned.

Breest testified that after a film screening social gathering in Manhattan the place she labored and Haggis was a visitor, she went to his condo for a drink out of a way of accountability to her boss on the movie-events company, who was a good friend of Haggis. 

She testified she was not interested in him, saying, “He was older than my dad.” Once there, she mentioned, Haggis tore her garments off in a wrestle, pressured her carry out oral intercourse on him and to undergo intercourse, and pushed his fingers inside her as she repeatedly mentioned no. Her lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for the hurt she says Haggis triggered her. 

With Chaudhry asking the questions, Haggis mentioned they left the film screening social gathering when he supplied her a journey house within the automotive that Breest’s boss had organized for him. Breest has mentioned the 2 then haggled over their subsequent cease — her place, his or a bar — in a dialog outdoors the automotive, and that Haggis turned aggravated when she didn’t agree immediately to neglect about going house.

Haggis mentioned he invited her as much as his place solely after they’d climbed inside. “I was interested in her,” he mentioned. He mentioned it felt mutual primarily based on how warmly she greeted him on the social gathering, and the way engaged they had been with one another all evening. Jurors additionally noticed pleasant, unsolicited emails from Breest to Haggis previous the social gathering. 

“Then she said something odd,” he testified: “‘OK, I’ll come up but I’m not going to spend the night.’”

Breest has testified that she “wanted to make it clear that I had no romantic interest in him.” Haggis mentioned the caveat was odd “because I hadn’t invited her to sleep over.” He mentioned he laughed and instructed her, “We’ll have a glass of wine. That’s it.” 

Breest has mentioned that because the automotive headed south by means of Manhattan she realized her telephone had died. Haggis mentioned Breest mentioned nothing a couple of lifeless telephone, and the automotive had charging functionality. Where Breest has mentioned that Haggis invited her as much as see his wine assortment, Haggis testified, “I don’t have a wine collection,” only a few bottles. 

Breest’s demeanor within the automotive was “very happy, very fun,” Haggis mentioned. “She was having a really good time — seemed to be.” Even her tone when she mentioned she wouldn’t spend the evening was “playful, cartoony, kind of kitten-y,” he testified. 

Likewise, he mentioned, “I was enjoying this.”

Haggis mentioned that when the automotive pulled up, the driving force turned and requested him if he ought to wait. “I asked Haleigh if she wanted to keep the car,” Haggis testified, and he or she stunned him by saying no. They went inside and took the constructing elevator, which opens immediately into his full-floor condo on the seventh, high ground. 

They kicked off their sneakers, he mentioned, and Breest tossed her coat over a close by chair. He opened a bottle of wine and some minutes right into a dialog on the kitchen counter he described as pleasant and flirty, he leaned ahead and kissed her. 

“Tell us about that kiss,” Chaudhry mentioned. Haggis mentioned it was a short, close-mouthed kiss with him putting one hand on her waist or shoulder.

“I stepped back,” he mentioned, “and she acted a little surprised, like, ‘Oooh!’” 

“I do not think she was surprised,” he continued, “I got the impression she was acting like she was surprised.” He mentioned he responded with an amused, “Really?”

In Breest’s telling, that is across the level the place Haggis backed her into his fridge and, pinning her arms, mentioned, “You’re scared of me aren’t you?” and “Don’t act like a f*cking 18-year-old.”

After the primary kiss, Haggis described a type of day out, telling Breest she may use a close-by lavatory if she wanted to, whereas he went down the corridor to the lavatory in his master suite. He additionally eliminated the medical brace he’d been sporting below his shirt for again help on daily basis since his spinal surgical procedure in Italy eight weeks earlier.  

Haggis testified earlier that he was ache free an capable of stroll after the surgical procedure, and carry or roll gentle baggage by means of airports, however his again was nonetheless stiff and his pelvis felt “loose” and nonetheless weak in a approach that made him conscious of even easy physique actions reminiscent of leaning ahead to shake palms. 

(Haggis briefly left the courtroom on Wednesday to placed on the brace — now an exhibit within the trial — below his blue dress shirt as an indication to jurors of its discreet match.)

The lavatory break was “also to give her some space,” he mentioned. “I had just kissed her.” 

He returned to search out her nonetheless in or close to the kitchen, and so they kissed once more.

“And how long did that kiss last,” Chaudhry requested. 

“Longer,” he mentioned. 

Haggis will return to the stand on Thursday. “We look forward to cross-examination,” a lawyer for Breest, Zoe Salzman, mentioned outdoors the courtroom. Judge Kraus mentioned she expects the jury to listen to closing arguments on Monday. 

The eleventh day of testimony started with Haggis’ ex-wife and fellow ex-Scientologist Deborah Rennard, who instructed the court docket he by no means was violent along with her and by no means pressured intercourse on her. 

“I know of no reputation with him regarding women,” Rennard testified. “He had great relationships with women. I never heard of anything negative.”

Earlier in his testimony Wednesday, Haggis wept on the stand as he talked about Rennard, his second spouse, who he admitted dishonest on repeatedly earlier than and after they married in 1997. They separated in 2010 and formally divorced in 2016, two years earlier than the lawsuit. “She’s been my best friend ever since,” he mentioned, eradicating his glasses to wipe away tears with a handkerchief. “So few people stand up for you in situations like this.”

The couple’s grownup son James Haggis was in court docket in the present day, watching together with the defendant’s three daughters from the sooner marriage, and Rennard after she had completed testifying.

When the court docket recessed for lunch, Haggis had not but addressed the rape allegations immediately. Breest is in search of unspecified unspecified damages from a declare that he pressured her into unprotected oral intercourse and intercourse in his condo in Manhattan in 2013. Four different ladies known as to testify by Breest’s workforce so far mentioned that Haggis assaulted or tried to assault them sexually in separate incidents between 1996 and 2015. Breest was working as a contract occasions publicist on the time of the alleged incident. She was 26, and Haggis was 59.

But his first 90 minutes of testimony — a lot of it autobiography — laid the groundwork for him to disclaim that he had ever dedicated rape or tried to power intercourse on anybody. In discussing his 31 years in Scientology — to which he mentioned he gave a “stupid amount” of money within the tens of millions — Haggis mentioned he additionally paid for therefore known as “auditing” periods that church clergy carried out utilizing a so known as “E-Meter,” a type of lie detector for the soul. 

Haggis mentioned he underwent these religious, confessional interrogations into “what have you done that the church would want to know about” willingly. They ranged from half-hour to 12 hours, and he collectively paid lots of of hundreds of {dollars} for them. The take a look at administrator took handwritten notes, and Haggis mentioned he later realized that many periods had been videotaped unbeknownst to their topics. 

The auditing revealed a church hierarchy “fixated” on sexual habits in addition to any signal of disloyalty to the church, he mentioned. 

“I grew up Catholic,” Haggis, a local of London, Ontario, Canda, mentioned. “So I confessed absolutely everything in auditing.”

Chaudhry requested if the intercourse he confessed to within the audits was consensual, non-consensual or “something else.”

“Consensual,” he mentioned. 

“Did you ever reveal anything else regarding women?” she requested.  

“There was nothing else to reveal regarding women other than sexual relationships,” Haggis mentioned. 

Haggis mentioned that at one level he glimpsed the gathering of file folders containing the handwritten notes of his auditing periods. It was “a big pile as high as the ceiling,” together with “hundreds of folders with my name on them,” and sufficient folders in all to fill a room 15 ft throughout and 12 ft excessive. 

Haggis, on the stand, was additionally the self-deprecating determine that many witnesses talked about earlier than him. 

“Can you tell us some of the shows you have worked on?” Chaudhry requested. 

“Just the good ones? Or?” he replied to laughs. 

Ticking off work for exhibits together with Love BoatThree’s CompanyOne Day at a TimeDiff’lease Strokes and The Facts of Life, he mentioned, “I made a very good living as a very bad writer for many, many years.”

He mentioned his work on the status ‘90s way of life drama, Thirtysomething, marked a change in his outlook and his fortunes. He received his first Emmys, after which turned the present runner of a CBS drama, Family Law, primarily based loosely on the attorneys who dealt with his first divorce. Then he turned the present over to another person to focus on breaking into movie. 

Threaded between his career arc had been tales of a dysfunctional relationship along with his first spouse Diana Gettas. He mentioned that when, after they had been engaged, he “hit her in the cheek with my fist” when she attacked him with a chef’s knife. He mentioned that in any other case she did all of the hitting of their relationship. He mentioned he would ether endure the blows or lock himself within the lavatory. 

He mentioned he was nonetheless residing in Canada, working in building for his father and dreaming of Hollywood when he met a few “long-haired freaks” like himself, and one confirmed him a replica of “Dianetics,” the founding ebook of Scientology. He mentioned one led him right into a small office above a Woolworth’s 5 and dime retailer, the place he made the choice to affix the church in hopes of discovering assist for his relationship along with his future spouse. “They said basically they could fix it,” he mentioned. 

On her cross-examination, second spouse Rennard mentioned she didn’t know the substance of the allegations from Breest and the opposite accusers and didn’t know that he instructed a few of these ladies intimate particulars about his married intercourse life. She mentioned a letter she wrote in help of him after the lawsuit was not influenced by the $20,000 in month-to-month alimony help she was receiving from Haggis on the time.

She mentioned she was “trepidatious” about testifying, fearing Scientology — which she give up with Haggis — would possibly come after her. The Haggis authorized workforce has argued, to date with out proof, that the Breest case could be a Scientology operation to destroy him for qutting and turning into a Scientology critic. 

 Maazel challenged Rennard on this level, saying. “You said you were “trepidatious … but you issued a public statement and sent it to press outlets around the world.”

Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.

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