'Crash' director Paul Haggis loses New York sexual assault case, ordered to pay USD7.5 million in damages

The 69-year-old was accused in 2017 by film publicist Haleigh Breest of abusing and sexually assaulting her in 2013


Published: Fri 11 Nov 2022, 9:32 AM

A New York jury on Thursday found Oscar-winning Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis liable for raping a publicist in 2013, ordering him to pay her at least $7.5 million in damages.

The jurors ruled against Haggis, who wrote and directed Crash, in the rape lawsuit following a two-week civil trial in Manhattan.

The 69-year-old was accused in 2017 by film publicist Haleigh Breest of abusing and raping her in 2013, when she was 26 years old.

With the #MeToo movement gaining ground, three more women subsequently accused Haggis -- who also penned the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby -- of sexual assault.

More recently, Haggis was arrested in June in southern Italy on suspicion of aggravated sexual assault in a different case. He denied any wrongdoing and was soon released.

In her suit, Breest said that on the evening of January 31, 2013, after a film screening in Manhattan, the director insisted she have a drink at his home, even though she preferred to go to a bar.

Once in his apartment, Haggis made multiple advances before making her perform oral sex and then raping her, she said.

"I am grateful that I had the opportunity to seek justice and accountability in court and that the jury chose to follow the facts and believed me," Breest said in a statement.

During the trial, the filmmaker's lawyers suggested that her suit was guided by the Church of Scientology, which Haggis left and has since criticized, according to US media.

The plaintiff's lawyers denied the accusation.

Haggis does not face criminal charges in the case.

Known for being one of the creators of the Walker Texas Ranger television series, Haggis received an Oscar for best picture and best original screenplay in 2006 for Crash.

He was additionally the screenwriter for Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, as well as James Bond films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

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