UPDATED with post-trial statements: A New York jury right this moment discovered filmmaker Paul Haggis liable on all three counts of rape and sexual abuse in his therapy of Haleigh Breest, who left a celebration in Manhattan with him in 2013 after which sued the Crash Oscar winner in 2017 claiming he repeatedly compelled intercourse on her in his residence that night time.
The unanimous jury of 4 males and two ladies — whose make-up modified on the primary day of deliberations — deliberated for practically six hours within the civil trial earlier than awarding Breest $7.5 million in compensation. It additionally beneficial punitive damages, the quantity of which might be determined Monday, November 14.
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Seated between his attorneys, Haggis — who faces no jail time as a result of this was not a prison continuing — regarded straight forward because the verdicts had been learn. He then stood together with his three grownup daughters and hugged considered one of them, who was crying.
Standing together with his lawyer Priya Chaudhry and his relations exterior the courthouse, Haggis mentioned: “I’m clearly very disillusioned within the outcomes. And I’m going to proceed to, with my crew, combat to clear my title. We’re going to maintain our choices as to what we’re going to do.”
Breest hugged her attorneys mentioned as she exited that she was “very grateful.” She later launched an announcement by means of her attorneys: “I’m grateful that I had the chance to hunt justice and accountability in court docket — and that the jury selected to observe the details — and believed me. The best supply of consolation by means of this 5 yr authorized journey has been the help I felt from the ladies who bravely shared their very own tales and let me know I wasn’t alone.”
Breest’s attorneys Zoe Salzman and Ilann Maazel mentioned in an announcement: “We’re happy to see justice served for our consumer, Haleigh Breest. After the jury heard a mountain of plain proof in opposition to Mr. Haggis, they did the best factor and held him accountable for his deplorable habits. We commend Ms. Breest for the bravery it took to come back ahead. She stood up for herself and for all ladies.”
Additionally within the hallway, Breest paused to hug her former therapist, Catherine Baker-Pitts, who handled Breest in 2017-19 and testified throughout the trial that Breest was affected by signs of trauma.
“Justice was served,” Baker-Pitts mentioned of the decision, including that Breest stepped out “out of her consolation zone” to pursue the case, “and she or he trusted within the system.”
Baker-Pitts, who was Breest’s most seen and infrequently solely supporter within the courtroom, mentioned she hopes the result will assist Breest “restore a sense of security on the earth,” and encourage “religion within the energy of talking up — that it was value it.”
Right now’s verdicts had been the most recent judgment in a spate of circumstances rising out of a #MeToo motion that has referred to as out highly effective males within the leisure business as sexual abusers. The jury was requested to determine whether or not Haggis was considered one of them. Breest and her attorneys sought to show that Haggis had compelled her to undergo intercourse and to carry out oral intercourse on him and pushed his fingers within her whilst she mentioned “no.”
She spent 4 days in complete on the stand describing the encounter and defending her interpretation of it in opposition to a skeptical cross-examination by a lawyer for Haggis, Priya Chaudhry. In closing arguments on Wednesday, Chaudhry requested jurors to make use of their “fabulous New York frequent sense” to see by means of Breest’s story.
Jurors dominated on three particular fees: first-degree rape and two third-degree fees of intercourse abuse and a prison sexual act beneath New York legislation. About one hour into their deliberations, jurors requested the decide for a number of items of trial testimony and proof together with texts between Breest and the pal she contacted first, and deposition testimony by Breest and Haggis discussing vaginal intercourse.
Breest and Haggis each had testified that they went again to his residence after a movie-screening social gathering on Jan. 31, 2013, the place Haggis, then 59, was a VIP visitor and Breest, then 26, was working as a contract publicist. Each agreed that Haggis turned a suggestion of a experience dwelling for Breest in his employed automobile into an invite to his place, and that she deflected the invitation at first by suggesting they as a substitute go to a bar. She then agreed to go dwelling with him however mentioned she wouldn’t keep the night time, each testified.
Their testimony diverged from there. Breest mentioned she felt “pressured” to spend time after work with Haggis, a frequent visitor at occasions placed on by her boss, who fired her after she filed the lawsuit. Haggis testified that he and Breest had been flirting all night time, had been genuinely concerned with one another and that Breest was playfully letting him know she was open to intercourse with him even when she wasn’t planning to remain over.
Haggis testified that the intercourse was consensual and, to the perfect of his reminiscence, confined to oral intercourse that Breest initiated. He mentioned that Breest by no means portrayed the encounter to him as the rest till her lawsuit virtually 5 years later on the peak of the #MeToo motion, after Haggis had referred to as film producer Harvey Weinstein a “predator” as ladies within the movie business had been coming ahead with accounts of Weinstein sexually brutalizing them.
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He has referred to as the case a vendetta by the Church of Scientology, a secretive and rich spiritual motion based by a science fiction novelist. Haggis stop the church in 2009 with harsh phrases for its strategies and spoke at size about his journey by means of and out of Scientology for a New Yorker profile and an HBO documentary.
His protection attorneys didn’t produce a single witness or piece of documentation in court docket linking any of his accusers on to the church, however in closing arguments on Wednesday, Haggis lawyer Chaudhry mentioned jurors ought to contemplate the “sturdy circumstantial proof” of a Scientology function in accusations which have “totally destroyed him.”
The jury heard from about two dozen witnesses in all, together with Haggis, Breest and 4 Jane Does — Deadline is just not naming them — who mentioned Haggis sexually assaulted them, or tried to, in separate incidents between 1996 and 2015 after utilizing totally different ruses to get them alone. They aren’t events to the lawsuit in opposition to Haggis, however a lawyer for Breest, Ilann Maazel, mentioned in closing arguments that they “give some perception into what his intent actually was” when he took Breest dwelling. Maazel referred to as Haggis a “psychopath” who deliberate and orchestrated his assault of Breest simply as he had carried out with the opposite 4 ladies.
There have been dueling specialists on reminiscence, trauma and attitudes in the direction of rape victims — each with hyperlinks to courtroom circumstances that accused Weinstein and the actor Kevin Spacey of sexual abuse. Two spinal surgeons supplied contrasting views on whether or not Haggis was even able to initiating forcible intercourse in opposition to somebody resisting him bodily, on condition that he was nonetheless recovering from an operation to restore two ruptured discs in his again.
Chaudhry, in a grinding, hours-long cross-examination that left Breest in tears, sought to point out jurors that the rape as she claimed it occurred was equal components “fantasy,” as Chaudhry put it in closing arguments, and “not bodily potential.” She mentioned Breest had a number of alternatives to go away Haggis’ residence, and as a substitute she spent the night time.
Chaudhry depicted Breest as a troubled and emotionally immature lady who mistook “a clumsy one-night stand” with a well-known, achieved Hollywood determine for one thing extra, and felt humiliated when he confirmed no additional curiosity.
Chaudhry mentioned Breest’s texts to pals afterward, and emails to Haggis, present her response evolving from pleasure at having spent the night time him to confusion at his disinterest, after which remorse and humiliation that led her to recast what occurred as rape.
One textual content from Breest learn, “As they are saying within the first wives membership don’t get mad get every little thing,” referencing the 1996 revenge-comedy film The First Wives Membership.
“She’s not upset about what occurred in Paul Haggis’ residence that night time,” Chaudhry mentioned. “She’s upset that he by no means invited her again.”
Jurors additionally heard from a string of protection witnesses with connections to the Church of Scientology, together with the previous King of Queens star Leah Remini, who additionally hosted the Emmy-winning documentary tv sequence, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
Remini and different former Scientologists, together with Haggis’ daughter Alissa, informed jurors that the church by no means forgives its enemies and makes use of litigation and impossible-to-trace covert operations to undermine them. One ex-Scientist, a documentary movie producer, mentioned that shortly after Haggis left the church, a high-ranking Scientologist referred to as her for assist digging up grime on him however she refused.
“It’s the proper protection,” Maazel scoffed in his closing. “There’s no proof of it, so it have to be true.”
An ex-wife of Haggis, singer and actress Deborah Rennard, testified that Haggis was untrue and had greater than 20 affairs throughout their marriage however by no means was violent. Three different ladies mentioned they continue to be pals with Haggis although they rejected his passes or romantic curiosity.
Haggis himself mentioned on the stand, “I’m a really flawed human being,” however denied raping or trying to power himself sexually on anybody.
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