Filmmaker Paul Haggis found guilty of rape, must pay $7.5 million to his victim
Sylvie Claire / November 11, 2022
Oscar-winning Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis was found liable Thursday, Nov. 10, by a New York civil court for the rape of a publicist in 2013, to whom he will have to pay $7.5 million. The director of Crash ("Collision") and screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby and Casino Royale, 69, was tried by a civil jury of the New York Supreme Court, after a liability trial that began on October 19. He has been accused since December 2017 by a publicist, Haleigh Breest, working in the film industry, of raping her in January 2013, when she was 26 years old.
In the wake, in the midst of the #MeToo wave of liberation of speech on sexual violence and sexism against women, the filmmaker had been targeted by accusations of sexual assault by three other women. But he appeared in New York only for the facts denounced by Haleigh Breest, which the filmmaker has always denied. He is not being criminally prosecuted for these rape charges. More recently, last June, Paul Haggis was arrested in the south of Italy, again under the suspicion of sexual assault against a young woman, facts that he still denied.
During the civil trial, the filmmaker's lawyers suggested on Wednesday before the popular jury of the New York court that Haleigh Breest's complaint had been teleguided by the Church of Scientology, with which Paul Haggis had broken away and which he has since criticized.
A thesis swept aside by the lawyers of the plaintiff. In her complaint, Haleigh Breest told that on the evening of January 31, 2013, after a film screening in Manhattan, the director had insisted that she come for a drink at his place, while she said she preferred to go out in a bar. Once in his apartment, Paul Haggis had made numerous advances before forcing her to perform oral sex on him and then raping her again. "I am grateful that I had the opportunity to go to court to seek justice and establish responsibility, and that the jury decided to follow the facts and believe me," said the plaintiff Haleigh Breest in a statement.
Known for being one of the creators of the Walker Texas Ranger series, Paul Haggis won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for Crash ("Collision"). He was also the screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby, Memoirs of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima by Clint Eastwood, as well as episodes of the James Bond saga, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.