Jury orders Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis to pay at least $7.5 million to rape accuser |  CBC News

Jury orders Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis to pay at least $7.5 million to rape accuser | CBC News

A jury in a New York civil trial on Thursday ordered Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis to pay at least $7.5 million to a woman who accused him of raping him. one of several cases from the #MeToo era that brought the behavior of some Hollywood figures to trial this fall.

Jurors also plan to award additional punitive damages.

The civil lawsuit pitted Haggis, who is known for writing the Oscar winner for Best Picture Million child and Fallagainst Haleigh Breest, a publicist who met him while working at movie premieres in early 2010.

After a screening afterparty in January 2013, Haggis offered Breest a ride home and invited her to his New York apartment for drinks.

Breest, 36, said Haggis then subjected her to unwanted advances and eventually forced her to perform oral sex and raped her despite her pleas to stop. Haggis, 69, said the columnist was flirtatious and although it seemed “confrontational” at times, he initiated kisses and oral sex in a completely consensual interaction. He said he could not remember whether they had intercourse.

After a day of deliberations, jurors sided with Breest, who said she suffered psychological and professional consequences from her encounter with Haggis. She filed a lawsuit at the end of 2017.

While the jury awarded her $7.5 million in compensatory damages, it concluded that punitive damages should also be awarded. Jurors will return for another trial on Monday to help decide that amount.

After hugging her lawyers, Breest said she was “very grateful” for the verdict as she left court. In a statement released later, she said she was grateful “that the jury chose to follow the facts — and believed me.”

Haggis said he was “very disappointed with the results.”

“I will continue to fight with my team to clear my name,” he said as he left the courthouse with his three grown daughters. One cried on a nurse’s shoulder as the sentence was handed down.

More #MeToo cases

The verdict came weeks after another civil jury in a federal courthouse ruled that Kevin Spacey did not sexually abuse fellow actor and then-teenager Anthony Rapp in 1986.

Meantime, That show from the 70s actor Danny Masterson and former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein are on trial separately in Los Angeles on rape charges. Both deny the charges, and Weinstein will appeal the ruling in New York.

All four cases followed the #MeToo movement to highlight, publicize and demand accountability for sexual misconduct sparked by the October 2017 news of decades of allegations against Weinstein.

In particular, Breest said she decided to sue Haggis because his public condemnation of Weinstein angered her.

Publicist Haleigh Breest (left) arrives at a court in New York on November 2, 2022. (Julia Nikhinson/The Associated Press)

Four other women also testified that they experienced violent, unwelcome advances — and in one case, rape — by Haggis in separate encounters dating back to 1996. None of the four took legal action.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they were sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Breest did.

Haggis has denied all the allegations. His defense presented several women to jurors — including an ex-wife and a longtime ex Dallas cast member Deborah Rennard — who said the writer and director took it in stride when they rejected his romantic or sexual overtures.

During three weeks of testimony, the court examined text messages Breest sent to friends about what happened with Haggis, emails between them before and after the night in question, and some discrepancies between their testimony and what they said in early court documents.

Both sides debated whether Haggis was physically capable of carrying out the alleged attack eight weeks after spinal surgery. Psychology experts offered mutual insights into what they say are widespread misconceptions about the behavior of rape victims, such as the belief that victims will have no follow-up contact with their attackers.

Scientology in the spotlight

Jurors also heard extensive testimony about the Church of Scientology, a religion founded by science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. Haggis was a follower of it for decades before publicly renouncing—and denouncing—Scientology in 2009.

Through testimony from Haggis and other former members, his defense argued that the church was trying to discredit him and may have had something to do with the lawsuit.

No witnesses said they knew that Haggis’ accusers or Breest’s lawyers had ties to Scientology, and his lawyers acknowledged that Breest herself did not. Still, Haggis’ attorney, Priya Chaudhry, tried to convince jurors that there were “traces, though perhaps not fingerprints, of Scientology involvement here.”

In a statement, the church said it had no involvement in the matter and argued that Haggis was trying to embarrass his accusers with an “absurd and patently false” claim.

Breest’s lawyers, Ilann Maazal and Zoe Salzman, called it a “disgraceful and baseless conspiracy theory.”

Canadian Haggis wrote episodes of such well-known series as Different strokes and Something over thirty in the 1980s. He broke into movies with a touch of Million child and Fall, which he also directed and co-produced. Each film won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2004 and 2005, and Haggis also won an Academy Award for Screenplay. Fall.

His other credits include screenplays for James Bond films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

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