Paul Haggis Accuser Testifies: ‘Agitated’ Filmmaker ‘Slobbered’ In Aggressive, Unwanted Kiss Before Attack

Haleigh Breest took the stand in the first live testimony against the “Crash” filmmaker since allegations surfaced in 2017

Paul Haggis
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 28: Paul Haggis attends the "I, Tonya" New York premiere after party on November 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Paul Haggis’ accuser took the stand Thursday and told a civil Manhattan jury that the “agitated” filmmaker pressured her to come to his apartment, where he immediately pinned her against a refrigerator and “slobbered” as he dove for an open kiss shortly after meeting at a 2013 movie premiere.

It was the beginning of a day of grueling testimony from Breest that was almost six years in the making.

The woman, former freelance publicist Haleigh Breest, first accused Haggis of sexual assault in a civil lawsuit in 2017. Three other women have come forward with similar claims in support of the lawsuit, but because of New York state court delays and COVID-19, the the Oscar-winning “Crash” director hadn’t faced live witness testimony before Breest appeared in court Thursday.

Breest’s lawyer Zoe Salman told the jury during opening statements that Breest has only attempted to have sex once – unsuccessfully – because the encounter left her with “flashbacks” and severe post-traumatic stress, according to the New York Post.

Breest, who is seeking unspecified damages, said Haggis became “agitated” when she suggested they go to a bar instead of his Manhattan apartment.

“I didn’t want to go to his apartment,” Breest said. “He got agitated. ‘Come over for a drink. I just got off a flight and I’m really tired,’” she said. “I felt pressured to say … yes, but I’m not sleeping in Soho tonight. I wanted to make it clear that I had no romantic interest in him. … He was older than my dad.”

Haggis, now 69, has denied all the allegations, and claims the encounter was consensual. He has also indicated he will argue that the Church of Scientology, of which he is a former member, is out to get him and helped cook up the charges.

Breest said as soon as she put her bags down in his kitchen/living area, “he walked toward me with an open mouth trying to kiss me.” She added that he “slobbered” as he pinned her body against his refrigerator.

“I was totally startled,” she said. “Our lips made contact and I said, ‘How about that wine?’ … I wanted to remind him I was there for a drink and to let him know without offending him,” Breest said. “He was a friend of my boss and I didn’t want to make an enemy.”

Still pinned against the fridge, she said Haggis then said: “Are you scared of me?”

She said what happened after that left her “really struggling to comprehend what had happened … I couldn’t understand how somebody who seemed like a nice guy would do that,” she said, according to The Associated Press.

Breest said she was able to deflect his kissing attempts and thought she had defused the situation as they started an apartment tour. But once in the guest room, Haggis “became aggressive very quickly,” then forced her to perform oral sex and wanted intercourse. She asked to use the shower to get away, but he followed her and continued to press for sex in a way that ended in rape.

“I was like a trapped animal,” she said. “There was nothing for me to do.”

Testimony was set to resume Friday.