When that legal lawsuit gets to trial next month, a judge gave Paul Haggis the green light to claim that the Church of Scientology is to blame for the sex assault claim that was used against him.
Haleigh Breest filed a lawsuit against Paul Haggis in 2017, alleging that the Oscar-winning filmmaker had raped her after a premiere she attended in January 2013 while working in the film industry. According to Haggis, the liaison was mutual. The trial’s jury selection process gets underway in New York City Supreme Court on October 11.
When Judge Sabrina Kraus decided that Haggis’ attorneys may make the claim that the Church of Scientology is behind the action, Haggis won a significant pre-trial motion on Friday. When Insider contacted the church on Monday for comment, they did not react right away.
Prior to departing from Scientology in 2009 and openly accusing it of being a cult, Haggis was a prominent adherent to the church. He played a significant role in the 2015 religious documentary “Going Clear.”
The assertion made by Haggis that the church persuaded Breest to file a complaint against him is “an absolute falsehood,” according to Breest’s legal team, and Haggis has “not supplied one shred of proof” to back up that claim.
However, Haggis’ legal team said that the material would provide a strong case that Breest’s allegations were the result of a “vendetta” by the church against him for leaving.
In a related document, Haggis’ attorneys claimed that a former Scientology official informed the filmmaker that the organization is “supporting this litigation.”
A top Scientology official allegedly told one of the witnesses referenced in the court document to go through Screen Actors Guild files for “any allegations or complaints” involving Haggis’ “aggressive, yelling, or violent conduct… with a lady.”
A second witness said that the church has a “black PR campaign” to deal with adversaries, in which they smear them with false information “to lessen their influence.”
“Haggis is not your typical civil defendant. He is a notorious, evil, powerful, and well-funded organization’s most visible antagonist, and it is widely known for destroying its critics “Attorneys for Haggis said in their document.
In her ruling, Judge Kraus concurred with the defense, stating that the jury should determine whether or not the church is involved in Breest’s accusation.
In her ruling, Judge Kraus said that the jury “is entitled to be apprised of whatever conceivable motivation Plaintiffs may have, and of The Church’s attempts to discredit Haggis.”
Breest is not the only woman to accuse Haggis of sexual assault. Breest sued Haggis in 2017, and a year later, her attorneys submitted an updated lawsuit, detailing how three other women had contacted them with allegations identical to Breest’s.
Over the summer, Haggis was also imprisoned in Italy when a second woman accused him of rape. However, he was finally let go and the accusation has not led to any prosecution.
Breest’s attorneys will be entitled to incorporate the testimony of the three more claimed victims in their case, according to Judge Kraus, in an effort to establish a pattern of activity. Kraus, though, ordered that the Italy arrest be kept out of the trial.
According to Kraus, the accusations made against the defendant in that instance “have not been proven true and were judged inadequate to detain him under custody.”
Ilann M. Maazel, one of the lawyers defending Breest, provided the following statement in response to inquiries over the judge’s decisions:
“Judge Kraus overruled Paul Haggis’ protest and said that several other women may testify that Haggis also abused them. Their compelling sworn testimony will be devastating to Haggis and contrast sharply with the total absence of supporting documentation for Haggis’s fictitious scientology conspiracy idea “said Maazel.
Requests for comment on this article were not immediately answered by a Haggis spokesman.