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#AceNewsDesk – UPDATED with more testimony, 5:09 PM: Back on the witness stand Thursday, Paul Haggis denied sexually assaulting any of the four Jane Does who have testified in support of Haleigh Breest, the New York woman who is suing the Oscar-winning filmmaker and former Church of Scientology member for allegedly raping her in 2013 according to Deadline News by Sean Piccoli
On the stand for a second day, Haggis finished his direct testimony in the sexual assault civil trial by saying these “terrible false allegations” had left him both “scared” and “humiliated.”
“I’m scared because I don’t know why women or anyone would lie about things like this, make up or twist the truth,” Haggis said more than seven hours into questioning by his lawyer, Priya Chaudhry. “I don’t know.”
In a halting voice, he said, “To see my daughters sitting in the courtroom right now, my son and my family, I’m humiliated by these false allegations.”
Haggis also faced 90 minutes of cross-examination by a lawyer for Breest, Ilann Maazel, that will continue on Friday. Judge Sabrina Kraus has told jurors to expect closing arguments on Monday.
Haggis denied, with varying degrees of detail, the individual accounts of the Jane Does who testified either in person or through depositions about incidents that happened between 1996 and 2015. Deadline is not identifying the women.
One woman testified that Haggis raped her in 1996 in his Toronto production office for the TV show Due South. Haggis said he already was back in Los Angeles by then.
Another woman said Haggis came at her in 2008 during a meeting in his Santa Monica film production headquarters, saying, “I want to be inside you,” and she fled the building. Haggis said his actual words were, “I want to sit beside you,” and that his only mistake was “oversharing” about his personal life and his poor self-image before he moved to sit closer.
He said he walked her out to her car where they said a friendly goodbye. She testified that they stayed in touch and that she sought his help with a U.S. work visa.
A third woman said Haggis got her alone into his hotel suite at a film and television festival in 2008 in Banff, Alberta, with the false promise of an afterparty. There, she testified, Haggis tried to kiss her, followed her out of the hotel and groped her breasts by a taxi stand before shoving her toward a cab.
“It’s just absolutely not true,” Haggis said. “If I was going to touch her breasts,” he said, he had “ample opportunity to do that if I chose to do so” when she was in his suite. He said his party guests eventually did show up.
A fourth woman said Haggis tried to force himself on her outside her apartment building in Toronto in 2015 but retreated when a passer-by heard her screaming. In her account, she said she exited a cab ride that she had spent cursing at him to “get the f*ck out,” and he followed her to the front door, flinging cash at the driver.
Haggis said he wasn’t carrying cash, and his lawyer showed jurors a credit card bill with an item that he said was for that ride. Haggis said it took three or four minutes to process the card payment in the cab, and that the woman waited patiently at the curb for him before he saw her to her building door. “I waved and walked away,” he said.
His voice rose as he objected to the fourth woman’s “vile” claims that Haggis called his ex-wife, Deborah Rennard, a “bitch” and told her details about his sex with her. “She’s my best friend. She’s stood by me,” Haggis said, almost sobbing, with Rennard sitting in the courtroom a day after she testified for him. “I never called her that.”
Haggis also returned to his Scientology defense one more time. He repeated a claim from another ex-Scientologist, Mike Rinder, who testified that an Australian television news program pulled a multi-part investigation into Breest’s lawsuit one day before the first segment was scheduled to air.
Haggis said the investigative reporter behind the exposé told him beforehand he had evidence that Scientology — which Haggis denounced as a “cult” after he quit in 2009 — was attempting to “blackmail or coerce or kidnap” women to induce them to fabricate allegations against Haggis. Judge Kraus ordered the jury to disregard this statement from Haggis, whose legal team has not put the reporter on the stand or shown jurors any documentation of his claim.
Haggis also seconded an assertion by Rinder that when Scientology sets out to discredit or destroy an enemy, “You would never know.”
“They leave their footprints all over it,” Haggis said, “but not their fingerprints.”
Haggis pointed to the testimony of an ex-Scientologist, Shawna Lee Brakefield, that after Haggis quit the church, she got a call from a high-ranking Scientology official asking her to help him dig up dirt.
On cross-examination, Maazel challenged Haggis’ self-description to jurors as a “high school dropout” who worked his way up to Hollywood royalty. Haggis admitted he went to a boarding school in his native Canada, got kicked out for breaking into an administrative office by picking the locks and altering his records and, at his next school, stole a checkbook from another student and used it to forge a check to buy himself running shoes.
Maazel probed for discrepancies between the written statements Haggis gave in reply to Breest’s lawsuit and his testimony on the stand. Breest testified that Haggis forced oral sex and intercourse on her. Haggis testified that he fell asleep during consensual oral sex that Breest initiated and he has “no memory” of having intercourse with her or of ejaculating at any point.
Over objections from Haggis’ lawyer, some sustained by Kraus, jurors heard Maazel say that Haggis “pretended to be someone else” when a process server tried to hand him Breest’s first complaint, and that Haggis resisted a subpoena for his DNA — and was compelled by a court order to give a cheek swab — once he learned that Breest had kept the tights she wore that night. Testing of the tights revealed seminal fluid that probably belonged to Haggis, a DNA expert said.
Haggis, in his direct testimony, again invoked Scientology, saying that his “growing suspicions” of a church role in the lawsuit made him fearful of handing over his DNA. He said that Scientologists once planted the fingerprints of a critic on letters containing bomb threats in a plot discovered years later because of an FBI raid on Scientology offices.
PREVIOUSLY, 12:30 PM: Paul Haggis was back on the witness stand today and said the only sex he remembers having with Haleigh Breest at his apartment in 2013 was consensual and limited to oral sex initiated by her.
Haggis has not yet faced cross-examination in the New York sexual assault civil case brought against him by Breest, who alleges that the Oscar-winning Crash filmmaker and former Church of Scientology member forced her into oral sex and intercourse after they were both at a movie-screening party. In his second day on the stand, Haggis continued with a detailed and very different interpretation from Breest’s account of what happened in his apartment.
Haggis testified that a handful of times, Breest pulled back from kissing Haggis in the kitchen and said, “No, I shouldn’t,” and that later, in the guest bedroom when he was peeling off her tights, she said, “No, no no, I don’t want you to see me. I’m fat.” Haggis described the protests in the kitchen as a “cartoony sort of Betty Boop-y, playful, smiling ‘No, I shouldn’t,’” and that they both initiated more kissing.
After another pause, he said he stepped back, and said he asked her: “How old are you? Are you a teenager? If you want to do something, do it. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it,” repeating what he said was the only good piece of advice he ever got from a Scientology official.
He denied he said it in anger or that he used the expletive in Breest’s recollection of that exchange: “Don’t act like a f*cking 18-year-old.”
When she broke off another kiss and stepped back, Haggis said he asked her, “You’re not scared of me, are you?” in contrast to Breest’s recollection of “You’re scared of me, aren’t you?”
Haggis said he offered to escort Breest to the lobby and put her in a taxi home. “She seemed conflicted in some way,” he said. “Not like she was truly conflicted but she should be conflicted or something.” He said she continued to smile and engage with him.
She stayed, and after a tour of the apartment that included Haitian art in a bathroom and his Oscar statuettes in his study, they wound up in a guest bedroom.
Haggis’ lawyer, Priya Chaudhry, led Haggis through a deliberate and sometimes second-by-second account of the encounter. The same method of questioning, when applied to her cross-examination of Breest, drew a complaint from Breest’s lawyers that Chaudhry was requiring her to “re-enact her rape.”
In response, Manhattan Superior Court Judge Sabrina Kraus told both parties to elicit more verbal testimony and fewer physical gestures. Haggis left his seat on the witness stand on Thursday primarily to draw a map, as Breest had done, of his movements inside the apartment that night on a blow-up of the floor plan.
Haggis said the two kissed more in the bedroom, lay down on the bed and began undressing. When she protested that she didn’t want him seeing her without tights, he said he got up and switched off a bedroom light and lowered a hall light and returned to the bedroom. He said that she then helped him remove the tights, and laughed, and that she performed oral sex on him while they were both partially clothed.
Haggis said he fell asleep on the bed during the sexual encounter, woke up later to go to the bathroom and returned to his own bedroom. When he woke up the next morning, he went into the guest bedroom and found that Breest had left without a note.
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.
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