Paul Haggis’ first accuser, a publicist who sued the “Crash” director in 2017 with claims of a terrifying sexual assault at his Manhattan apartment following a film premiere, may finally be getting her day in court after a trial date was set Monday.
Nearly six years – and four new accusers – after Haleigh Breest filed a civil lawsuit in a New York state court, her case was assigned to Hon. Sabrina Kraus for an Oct. 11 start. Haggis has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and said the sex was consensual, even suggesting that Scientology is out to smear him years after his departure from, and criticism of, the church.
It wasn’t immediately clear how that trial might be impacted by Haggis’ current house-arrest status in Italy, where earlier this month he was accused of violent rape by a different woman, also at a film festival. An Italian judge last week ruled that while the alleged attack is investigated, Haggis must remain in his hotel in southern Italy where he had been set to teach a masterclass at Allora Fest.
Italian authorities say a 30-year-old Englishwoman who was reportedly known to Haggis filed a report earlier this month saying he had raped her “for days” before dropping her off at an airport in the early-morning hours, where police say she was found by flight crew in a shattered state.
Lawyers for both Breest and Haggis did not immediately return messages sent Monday.
Breest said in her 2017 lawsuit that after attending a premiere on New Year’s Eve of 2013, she was pressured up to Haggis’ SoHo apartment, where he immediately began attacking her. She said she was unable to escape and was violently raped, but didn’t contact police out of shame and fear. Though there is no state statute of limitations on first-degree rape in New York, the burden of proof is lower for a civil case.
Breest is seeking unspecified damages. Her original lawsuit was amended in subsequent years to include three other accusers: one who says she was raped in similar fashion, and two others who said they managed to escape Haggis’ aggressive pursuit.
TheWrap reported last week that Breest’s case was caught up in a massive backlog of civil lawsuits that was significantly worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The judge originally assigned to the case was promoted to a higher division, which also may have pushed the date further.