In a civil rape lawsuit against director Paul Haggis, jury deliberations are scheduled to begin on Thursday. A six-person panel will be tasked with sorting through conflicting accounts of what transpired between him and a publicist one night in 2013.
Haleigh Breest, the complainant, claims that after hesitantly agreeing to a drink at the apartment of the “Crash” and “Million Dollar Baby” screenwriter, she was exposed to unwanted kisses, made to engage in oral sex, and eventually raped despite her repeated refusals.
In a summary delivered to the jury on Wednesday, one of her attorneys, Ilann Maazel, said, “This is a horror picture by Paul Haggis, and only you can end it.”
According to Haggis, he is defending himself against a false allegation made by a publicist for the entertainment industry who had a thing for an Oscar winner, had been a partner in a consensual meeting, and had been both hesitant and eager at various points.
“This lawsuit has utterly destroyed him,” defense lawyer Priya Chaudhry said in her closing argument, urging jurors to “set Paul free of these false allegations.”
Breest filed a lawsuit against Haggis in 2017, but she never reported her complaints to the authorities. She is asking for specific compensation.
Haggis, 69, and Breest, 36, met when she worked as a staff member at movie premieres in New York on the side. They conversed at events and sent each other emails; he views these exchanges as flirtatious feelers, but she views them as standard efforts to establish a connection by a public relations professional.
Both parties concur that after a screening on January 31, 2013, Haggis gave Breest a ride home and asked her to his loft for a nightcap. She recommended going to a bar.
She agreed but declared she wouldn’t stay the night when he insisted on the flat. He claimed he interpreted it as a “playful” gambit, but she sees it as a clear indication that sex was off the table.
They got there quickly, and he proceeded to kiss her. Then, their descriptions of the night and its aftermath varied greatly from one another.
Breest is portrayed by Chaudhry as a star-struck young woman who was looking forward to her night with the screenwriter-director but was disappointed when he didn’t ask her out again. She then turned “a consensual, somewhat awkward one-night stand” into a sexual assault in an effort to get paid — and payback.
“She’s lying. She’s not upset about what happened in Paul Haggis’ apartment that night. She’s upset that he never invited her back,” Chaudhry said in a closing argument. “There are three ‘r’ words in this case: reject, regret, revenge. None of them are rape.”
Breest’s attorneys portray Haggis as a cunning narcissist who frequently preyed on women who entered his professional sphere by using his filmmaking prowess and Hollywood reputation.
Regardless of permission, Maazel claimed that when it comes to young women he is drawn to, “he utilizes that manipulation to acquire sex, one way or the other.”
In addition to Breest, four additional women testified that Haggis had sexually attacked them at various times beginning in the 1990s. Haggis rejects these allegations, which his attorney alleges were made up to support Breest’s complaint. None of the other females are suing.
Criminal charges are not pending in this instance.
When someone claims they have been sexually assaulted, The Associated Press typically does not identify them unless they come forward in the open, as Breest has done.