At a New York jury found the Oscar-winning filmmaker guilty of sexually assaulting a former publicist after a movie premiere almost ten years ago, Paul Haggis lost his civil rape case. Haggis was found guilty on all three charges of rape and sexual assault.
The jury of four men and two women came to a unanimous decision to award Haleigh Breest, the plaintiff, $7.5 million in damages after nearly six hours of discussion. Additionally, they proposed punitive damages; the decision will be made on Monday.
The verdict brings to a close the three-week trial that was built around Breest’s assertions. She filed a lawsuit against Haggis in 2017, alleging that he had raped her in his Soho flat after forcing her to have oral sex with him. Breest participated in the 2013 event as a freelancer, and Haggis was a guest. Although Haggis doesn’t explicitly deny that the meeting took place, he insists that it did.
Breest stated in a statement following the verdict, “I’m grateful I got the opportunity to go to court and seek justice and accountability, and I’m glad the jury chose to look at the facts and believe me. The thing that brought me the most comfort throughout this five-year legal process was the support I experienced from the ladies who shared their own stories with me and let me know I wasn’t alone.
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Haggis’s attorney, Priya Chaudhry, said that Breest merely seeks money and retribution during the closing remarks on Wednesday.
Giving her justice isn’t the goal of this trial. This is obviously an effort to raise money, she remarked. “[Haggis’] career has been absolutely destroyed by this case, but Haleigh is just concerned with the money. It’s payday time.
Breest, however, claims that she did not file the complaint until she saw Haggis denounce Harvey Weinstein in the media following the producer’s accusation of sexual assault in 2017. Breest said in court last month, “I want Paul Haggis to be punished for what he did to me.
In her lengthy evidence, Breest, who was 26 at the time, claimed that when the director rejected her suggestion that they go to a public bar, she grudgingly agreed to have a drink at his apartment. She claimed that when Haggis, who was 59 at the time, kissed her against her will and led her into a bedroom where the alleged sexual assault took place, she felt “completely immobilised and terrified.”
Haggis presented a different account of what had transpired that evening in his testimony. Breest allegedly offered him oral sex after assuring him she was “extremely skilled at this,” and he claimed that she appeared to be highly interested in him. Additionally, Haggis informed the jury that Breest had been exhibiting “mixed signals” at his flat and that he “had no memory” of having sex with her that evening.
Judge Sabrina Kraus played a few brief excerpts from the Haggis and Breest original video depositions during the trial. In the video, Haggis initially responded “no” when asked if his penis entered Breest’s vagina. He then said, “It might have happened. My best recollection is that I passed out after oral s*x, but I can’t be certain of what transpired next. I’m not sure if it actually happened. I can’t remember anything.
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The Church of Scientology has been discussed extensively in this case. Haggis and his attorneys said that Breest’s rape accusation was an attempt to exact revenge on the director for quitting the divisive religion and making loud criticisms of it in 2009. There appears to be “no evidence” that Breest has connections to Scientology, according to attorneys on both parties during the trial.
The church doesn’t leave fingerprints, according to the defence, thus there is no proof. Breest’s team has dismissed the claim as a fabricated conspiracy idea.