Paul Haggis can argue at his civil sexual assault trial in New York that the Church of Scientology is behind the claims of rape, a judge ruled Friday.
Haggis faces trial next month in New York, where publicist Haleigh Breest accused him of raping her after a film premiere in January 2013. The two-time Oscar-winning “Crash” director maintains the encounter was consensual, and that Scientology operatives are out to smear him for leaving – and then openly and harshly criticizing – the church.
Lawyers for Breest sought to block that theory, but Judge Sabrina Kraus ruled Friday to allow it, according to documents obtained by TheWrap. However, Kraus did block Haggis from brining up a previous lawsuit he filed against Breest for inflicting emotional distress, which was dismissed; their settlement talks; and any reference to her financial condition.
Friday’s ruling references Haggis’ “stormy exit from The Church,” and detailed what he intends to argue in New York State Supreme Court.
“He was a member of The Church for over 30 years. As a routine part of membership in The Church, he had to report any ‘sexual transgressions’ outside his marriage to The Church. He rose to a top position in The Church. In an interview in 2011 with The New Yorker, Haggis predicted there would be an allegation made against him, that The Church would be behind the allegation,” the ruling states.
In a statement provided to TheWrap, The Church of Scientology denied any connection to the cases.
“The Church has nothing to do with the claims against Haggis nor does it have any relation to his accusers,” the statement reads. “The claim is absurd and patently false. … [He] continues to shop his scripted story to any who will buy it.”
Breest was the first woman to accuse Paul Haggis of sexual assault in her 2017 civil lawsuit, a case that was delayed nearly six years due to the pandemic and court backlogs. Four more women have since come forward with accusations – three in support of Breest’s lawsuit, and a British national who accused Haggis of raping her at a film festival in Italy in June.
Haggis was arrested and held at his hotel room for more than two weeks before an Italian judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to continue to detain him. Kraus on Friday also ruled that Breest could not bring up the Italian case at the trial.
However, Kraus did allow testimony of the three “Jane Does” who came forward with similar allegations to support Breest’s claims. The judge cited the “prior bad acts” ruling in People v. Weinstein – in which testimony from multiple Harvey Weinstein accusers was admitted into evidence – as precedent for her decision.
Weinstein was convicted in 2020 of rape and sexual assault in New York, and faces trial next month for similar charges in Los Angeles.