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Paul Haggis Rape Accuser Scores Appeals Court Victory in Gender-Motivated Violence Claim

The filmmaker was accused in 2017 of raping then 26-year-old Haleigh Breest in New York in 2013

A New York appellate court on Thursday ruled that filmmaker Paul Haggis will face an additional charge of gender-motivated hate crime in an ongoing civil suit filed by a woman who accused him of raping her in 2013.

The court found that the fact the accusation of sexual assault is sufficient in and of itself to support the existence of gender-based animus for the purposes of the Violence Against Women Act.

In 2017, publicist Haleigh Breest sued Haggis, accusing the “Crash” and “Million Dollar Baby” screenwriter of raping her in 2013 after she said Haggis offered the then-26-year-old a ride home following a movie premiere. Haggis forced her to come up to his apartment for a drink and “almost immediately began to make unwanted sexual advances and to forcibly kiss her,” according to her lawsuit.

“Eventually, Mr. Haggis succeeded in getting Ms. Breest into a bedroom where he began violently to try and remove her tights,” the suit read. “She resisted, struggling to push him off, but he continued. After multiple, forcible attempts to remove her tights, he succeeded. Mr. Haggis forced her to give him oral sex and aggressively inserted his finger into her vagina. He told her he liked anal sex. Then, he raped her.”

Haggis’s attorneys have denied the accusations, calling them “shocking and scandalous claims of fiction” and stating that “all sexual activity and interactions between the parties were consensual.”

Last year, New York Supreme Court Judge Robert Reed allowed an additional claim from Breest, citing New York City’s Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law to move forward.

New York passed the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence law in 2000 in response to a United States Supreme Court’s decision that struck down federal civil rights remedy for gender-motivated crimes contained in the Violence Against Women Act. New York’s Gender-Motivated Violence law provides a civil cause of action for victims of crimes of violence “committed because of gender or on the basis of gender, and due, at least in part, to an animus based on the victim’s gender.”

Reps for Haggis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.