Jury deliberations begin in rape lawsuit against Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis


Jury deliberations are because of begin Thursday in a rape civil case against filmmaker Paul Haggis, tasking a six-person panel with sifting by way of duelling narratives about what occurred between him and a publicist on an evening in 2013.

In accuser Haleigh Breest’s telling, she reluctantly agreed to a drink on the Crash and Million Dollar Baby screenwriter’s condominium, then was subjected to unwelcome kisses, compelled to carry out oral intercourse and raped as she repeatedly refused.

“This is a horror movie by Paul Haggis, and solely you may finish it,” one in every of her legal professionals, Ilann Maazel, advised the jury in a summation Wednesday.

By Haggis’ account, he is combating a false declare by a show-business publicist who took a shine to an Oscar winner, signaled curiosity for months and was a companion — by turns hesitant and keen — in a consensual encounter.

“This lawsuit has completely destroyed him,” defence lawyer Priya Chaudhry stated in her closing argument, urging jurors to “set Paul free of those false allegations.”

Accounts of evening in query diverge considerably

Breest sued Haggis in 2017; she by no means introduced her allegations to police or prosecutors. She’s searching for unspecified damages.

Breest, now 36, and Haggis, 69, met whereas she was moonlighting as a staffer at film premieres in New York. They chatted at occasions and exchanged emails, interactions that he sees as flirtatious feelers however she says had been a typical public relations particular person’s efforts to construct rapport.

Publicist Haleigh Breest arrives at courtroom, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in New York. Breest, now 36, and Haggis, 69, met whereas she was moonlighting as a staffer at film premieres in New York. (Julia Nikhinson/The Associated Press)

After a screening on Jan. 31, 2013, either side agree, Haggis provided Breest a trip house and invited her to his loft for a nightcap. She recommended a bar as a substitute.

When he remained set on the condominium, she accepted however stated she wasn’t going to spend the evening. She calls {that a} clear message that intercourse wasn’t on the desk; he stated he took it as a “playful” gambit.

Shortly after they arrived, he went to kiss her. And after that, their accounts and characterizations of the evening and its aftermath diverge considerably.

Chaudhry portrays Breest as a star-struck younger girl who was enthusiastic about her evening with the screenwriter-director, turned dissatisfied that he did not ask her out once more and twisted “a consensual, considerably awkward one-night stand” right into a sexual assault to attempt to get a payout — and payback.

“She’s misleading. She’s not upset about what occurred in Paul Haggis’ condominium that evening. She’s upset that he by no means invited her again,” Chaudhry stated in a closing argument. “There are three ‘r’ phrases in this case: reject, regret, revenge. None of them are rape.”

Breest’s legal professionals paint Haggis as a scheming narcissist who repeatedly used his cinematic chops and Hollywood standing to prey on girls who got here into his skilled orbit.

“When it involves younger girls he is drawn to, he makes use of that manipulation to get intercourse, in some way,” no matter consent, Maazel stated.

Besides Breest, 4 different girls testified that Haggis sexually assaulted them at separate factors going again to the Nineties — claims that he denies and his lawyer recommended had been manufactured to bolster Breest’s lawsuit. The different girls aren’t suing.

There are not any prison expenses related to the case.

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


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