A New York civil jury of six people will begin deliberations Thursday in a publicist’s rape case against Paul Haggis, after both sides wrapped their widely divergent versions of what happened between the two following a 2013 film premiere in Manhattan.
“This is a horror film by Paul Haggis, and only you can end it,” plaintiff’s lawyer Ilann Maazel told the jurors, who were dismissed Wednesday before getting to work. Breest is seeking unspecified damages, and had testified that she took the matter to civil court to have more control over how it was presented.
Jurors must first determine whether Haggis is liable for battery; then it would determine what sort of monetary damages to award Breest. Her lawyer revisited testimony and depositions from four women who said Haggis either sexually assaulted them or aggressively attempted to; those women are not suing, but presented supporting evidence throughout 15 days of testimony.
“We have to face the fact that Paul Haggis is a monster,” Maazel said. “He’s a psychopath. He’s cunning, deceitful and manipulative. He has the gall to sexually assault five women and then get on the stand and play the victim.”
Paul Haggis’ lawyer closed the “Crash” director’s defense argument Wednesday in a New York courtroom, telling jurors that the former publicist accusing him of rape was a spurned lover who was out to get his money – and her revenge.
“There are three ‘R’ words that happened here – rejection, regret and revenge – and none of these ‘R’ words are rape,” said defense attorney Priya Chaudhry.
It was something of a new narrative at the 11th hour for the Haggis’ legal team, which throughout the trial had been pushing the theory that Scientology was somehow behind the allegations. The defense had called Leah Remini, Mike Rinder and other former church members to testify about Scientology’s vindictive tactics to destroy “enemies,” but never established a direct connection to the rape case.
Breest filed her civil lawsuit in 2017, seeking unspecified damages for what she said was unwanted, forced sex at Haggis’ apartment following a 2013 film premiere. Haggis testified that the encounter was entirely consensual, that Breest seemed to be “having a nice time,” and that she was friendly toward him in the weeks that followed – unless he had a girlfriend on his arm.
Chaudhry argued that Breest’s story has changed throughout the years, only becoming a tale of rape after she felt rejected by Haggis when her “hinting” for another date in subsequent emails went unrequited. “Her version is at best a cocktail of false memories and lies,” Chaudhry said, suggesting she was after notoriety when she blasted her 2017 lawsuit to the media.
“She is a publicist,” Chaudhry said. “What she does is create publicity. She wants to be famous – she wants you to give her Paul Haggis’ hard-earned money.”
Though Wednesday’s “spurned lover” final flourish was a fresh tack for the defense, that didn’t stop Chaudhry from suggesting the church had moved like an occult hand to somehow get Breest – who testified she has no connection to Scientology – to go after Haggis.
“Scientology is permanently attached to him like a dark shadow,” Chaudhry said. “We know that [Haggis] is one of [Scientology’s] top three enemies,” Chaudhry said. “There is strong circumstantial evidence here.”
She noted that after Breest filed her case, Scientology stopped its campaign to ruin the filmmaker’s life.
“Once this lawsuit was filed in 2017, for the first time in history, they suddenly stop pursuing Paul Haggis,” Chaudhry said. “Why? Is it because they achieved their mission to utterly destroy him?”