Leah Remini, who like her friend Paul Haggis is a former Scientologist who left the church and became one of its most vocal critics, is expected to testify Monday on behalf of the “Crash” director fighting a civil lawsuit accusing him of rape.
Haggis’ lawyer Priya Chaudhry argued Friday that the defense should be allowed to call Remini as an 11th-hour witness to testify about “her personal experience with the various tactics used [by Scientology] to destroy her.”
Before the trial began, Haggis’ team won the right to argue that the church was somehow behind the suit brought by former events publicist Haleigh Breest, though they have yet to produce any evidence or testimony making that connection directly.
Judge Sabrina Kraus heard Chaudry’s argument to bring Remini aboard as a last-minute material and character witness – and the judge agreed. Remini, co-host of the 2016 docuseries “Scientology and the Aftermath,” was expected to join the court via video conference first thing Monday morning.
“She was born into Scientology and also sort of born into Hollywood, and in both of those communities she is very familiar with Mr. Haggis’ reputation regarding any aggression or violence towards women,” Chaudhry argued.
Last week, Remini – a Haggis supporter from the start who has openly called the accusations “suspect” – blasted out a 36-tweet thread laying out the case for the “Scientology defense” before any notion was raised that she might be a witness. She backed claims that Haggis witnesses – and witnesses in the separate criminal rape trial of current Scientologist Danny Masterson – have made saying church members are forbidden from reporting crimes against one another.
1. Did you know that if you are a Scientologist, you are forbidden from contacting law enforcement when another Scientologist has committed a crime against you?
If you do, you will be declared a suppressive person and lose your family, friends, and livelihood overnight.
— Leah Remini (@LeahRemini) November 1, 2022
Breest’s lawyers argued against Remini’s inclusion, saying it would only duplicate previous testimony from her “Aftermath” co-host Mike Rinder. Rinder spoke at length for the jury last month about Scientology’s alleged relentless smear tactics against its “enemies,” but did not draw any clear connections to the Breest lawsuit.
Breest testified last month that after she accepted a ride home from Haggis from a New York film premiere in February 2013, he pressured her to come to his apartment, where things spiraled quickly out of her control until she was ultimately raped.
Haggis has maintained since Breest filed her lawsuit in 2017 that the sex was consensual. Though he testified this week that Breest was apprehensive at first about becoming physical, she “seemed to be having a really good time,” initiated some of their kissing sessions and was giggling, smiling and “playful” during their lone sexual encounter.
Haggis was on the stand Friday for a second say of cross-examination. Attorney Ilann Maazel questioned him about the hours leading up to the alleged assault, showing a photo she showed of he and Catherine Zeta-Jones hugging at an afterparty for his 2013 film “Side Effects.”
“You didn’t think Catherine Zeta-Jones was romantically interested in you did you?” Maazel asked.
Haggis replied no.
“She was just being friendly in your opinion?” Maazel asked.
Breest was working as a publicist for Cinema Society, the event’s host. Haggis said they encountered each other that night after months of “flirtatious” emails.
“We met and hugged but not at the door,” Haggis said.
Maazel also grilled Haggis about his interpretation of the word “No.”
“While you were trying to pull off Ms. Breest’s tights, Ms. Breest said the word ‘No,’ correct?”
“Yes, she used the word,” Haggis replied.
“As a part of a sentence, yes,” Haggis testified. He said in his Thursday testimony that Breest was uncomfortable with her body and didn’t want him to see, so he turned the lights down.
“According to you, she did not say ‘No’ in the way that one means ‘No,’ correct?” Maazel asked.
“She did not say ‘No,’ as in ‘Stop,’ that’s correct,” Haggis replied.
Haggis’ lawyers also called Gian Schwehr, who worked as his assistant for more than 20 years. Schwehr testified that the alleged assaults were not consistent with her knowledge of his conduct, and that she’d never seen him act inappropriately toward women.
Asked if the case changed her opinion of him, she said it did not – because “that doesn’t match.”
The trial is moving quickly toward a conclusion, with closing arguments expected sometime next week.
The judge took the unusual step last month of declaring to the jury that both sides of the case agree that Breest is not a Scientologist. The church has also vehemently denied any involvement in Haggis’ case.
“The Church has nothing to do with the claims against Haggis nor does it have any relation to the attorneys behind the case of the accusers,” the church said in a statement. “The Church has nothing to do with the claims against Haggis nor does it have any relation to his accusers.”