Paul Haggis trial: Rape accuser testifies



He was a well-known moviemaker. She was a publicist working a movie premiere the place he was a VIP visitor. He’d provided her a elevate house after which invited her to his condo for a drink.

Once there screenwriter-director Paul Haggis abruptly tried to kiss her, backed her into his fridge, and had a query for her, accuser Haleigh Breest advised a jury Thursday.

“Are you fearful of me?” he requested, based on her testimony.

And so started, Breest stated, a sexual assault that ended with the Oscar winner raping her. She’s suing him in a civil case that is now on trial.

Haggis maintains the 2013 encounter was consensual, and his lawyer has argued that Breest known as it rape as a result of she’s out for cash. She’s searching for unspecified damages.

In a gentle, unsparing tone, Breest recounted what she stated was a terrifying, painful assault that left her shocked and “actually struggling to understand what had occurred.”

“I could not perceive how any person who appeared like a pleasant man would do this,” she stated.

As she spoke with out taking a look at him, Haggis, 69, watched largely expressionlessly, typically rubbing his bearded chin or taking notes.

The Associated Press typically does not establish individuals who say they’ve been sexually assaulted until they arrive ahead publicly, as Breest has completed.

Breest, now 36, stated she first met the “Crash” and “Million Dollar Baby” screenwriter in 2012 at a premiere afterparty the place she was working.

Breest and Haggis exchanged occasional skilled emails and occasion chitchat, she stated, over the months earlier than their paths crossed once more at one other premiere occasion she labored on Jan. 31, 2013.

A tipsy — however not stumbling drunk — Breest accepted the filmmaker’s supply of a experience, after which his invitation for a drink, she advised jurors. She stated she instructed someplace public as a substitute, however he pushed for his condo in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, and he or she did not wish to offend considered one of her employer’s red-carpet visitors.

“But simply so you recognize,” she testified that she advised him, “I’m not sleeping in SoHo tonight.”

Yet Haggis’ advances started as quickly as she put her luggage down in his loft’s open kitchen, Breest stated.

“You’ve been flirting with me for months,” he quickly stated, based on her.

“I do not even know you,” she stated she replied.

Breest stated she dodged him and thought she’d politely defused the scenario when he began displaying her the condo. But after they reached a visitor bed room, Haggis “grew to become aggressive in a short time,” pushed her onto the mattress and pulled off her tights and garments as she tried to maintain them on and advised him to cease, she stated.

Then, she stated, he pressured her to carry out oral intercourse and wished intercourse. She stated she requested to take a bathe as a delicate approach to get out of the room, however he adopted her there, then steered her again to the visitor bed room and made an extra sequence of undesirable sexual strikes that culminated in rape.

“I used to be like a trapped animal. There was nothing for me to do,” she stated.

Breest stated she handed out quickly afterward, awoke alone on the mattress the subsequent morning and left with out seeing Haggis once more.

That day and within the ensuing months, Breest stated, she advised a half-dozen associates that she had been sexually assaulted, naming Haggis to some. She stated she knowledgeable her boss the subsequent yr that Haggis had completed one thing unhealthy to her.

Breest did not inform police. She testified that she was scared and anxious about how her allegation can be dealt with.

Nor did she confront Haggis when he emailed her the day after the encounter to ask about pictures from the premiere. Nor at subsequent screenings or in emails, a few of which she initiated, about social occasions and film issues.

“I did not need my work expertise to be awkward,” she testified, so “I pretended like all the pieces was regular. And it wasn’t.”

Behind the scenes, Breest anguished over what had occurred and what to do, based on textual content and different digital messages proven in court docket.

The communications, despatched to associates, veer from frank descriptions of pressured intercourse — “and I stored saying no” — to moments when she appeared to downplay it (“it form of is” rape).

At occasions she stated she wished to keep away from Haggis, at others she mused about seeing him once more to attempt to regain some equanimity and “not be the sufferer.” The messages are salted with lighthearted texting slang — “lol,” “omg,” “haha” — that Breest says had been makes an attempt to make use of humor to defang a tricky topic.

Haggis hasn’t testified so far, and his attorneys have not but gotten their likelihood to query Breest. In a gap assertion, protection legal professional Priya Chaudhry pointed to among the accuser’s messages — akin to a remark that she wants “to get one thing out of this” — to query her credibility.

Breest stated her remarks simply mirror her horror at being victimized, her need to grab again a way of management in her life, and her confusion at how somebody she thought properly of might violently activate her.

Now, she stated, she understands that evening.

“I believed I used to be getting a experience house. I agreed to have a drink. What occurred by no means ought to have occurred,” she advised the jury. “And it had nothing to do with me, and all the pieces to do with him and his actions.”


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