Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis testified Thursday in detail about a sexual encounter in 2013 with a woman who says he raped her – while his four adult children and his ex-wife sat in the courtroom.
Haggis, 69, told jurors in the civil rape trial that the night of January 31, 2013 he spent with former publicist Haleigh Breest at her Soho apartment was consensual, claiming she only had oral sex with her – and contradicting much of Breest’s testimony, including that they had sex.
Haggis maintained the date was consensual.
On his second day on the witness stand, the filmmaker’s three daughters and son, along with his ex-wife Deborah Rennard, sat stoically in Manhattan Supreme Court.
The “Crash” director has repeatedly said he found the then 25-year-old Breest “lovable” before, during and after the encounter.
Breest told her “I’m good at it” before performing oral sex on her in a guest bedroom of his Mercer Street penthouse, he claimed.
“The way she said it was kind of adorable,” Haggis said. “It was almost like her Jessica Rabbit impersonation.”
Haggis said the sex act lasted 10-20 minutes before he fell asleep and finally woke up, moving to his own bedroom – claiming he made sure the sleeping Breest was covered with a blanket .
Breest testified that Haggis forced her to perform oral sex on him, attempted to perform forced oral sex on him, and ultimately raped her.
Haggis told the jury he “had no recollection” of having sex or performing oral sex on Breest that night.
But the ‘Million Dollar Baby’ screenwriter said the night “was kind of like a dance” where Breest said “I shouldn’t” multiple times as they kissed.
Then, when Haggis attempted to remove Breest’s pantyhose, she was “laughing and squirming,” saying, “I don’t want you to see me. I’m fat,” Haggis said.
“I said, ‘You’re not fat, you’re adorable,'” Haggis said.
Haggis claimed that whenever Breest expressed hesitation, he gave her space to think and even offered to call him a cab at some point – which he said she refused.
“She seemed conflicted in a way,” Haggis said. “If she feels like that, I’ll take her downstairs and get her a cab.”
“It’s really weird behavior, weird behavior,” he added.
Afterwards, Haggis said she saw Breest dozens more times at Cinema Society Events – where she worked part-time as a publicist – but decided to move on, dating around 20-30 more women. until Breest filed suit in 2017.
“I really liked her. I thought she was adorable. I enjoyed our night together,” Haggis said. “I thought it was fun.”
“But his behavior. The should-I-shouldn’t-I’s. All these various things…I started to feel like maybe she was too immature emotionally,” Haggis said.
Breest told jurors as Haggis allegedly raped her, “I was a trapped animal.”
After a movie premiere, Haggis asked Breest to come back to his apartment for a drink, which Breest claims was pressured after asking Haggis to go to a public bar instead.
Once at the apartment, Breest claims she said “no” and resisted Haggis’ advances throughout the night.
Jurors saw text messages Breest sent to a close friend the next day describing the encounter, telling the friend she “kept saying no” to Haggis.
Four other women have accused Haggis of rape and sexual assault.
Haggis has maintained that all of the accusations are false and were unearthed by the Church of Scientology – of which he was a member for more than 30 years and which he publicly criticized.
In a statement at the start of the trial, the Church of Scientology said it “has nothing to do with the allegations against Haggis or the attorneys behind the case or the accusers.”
“From day one, Haggis has conspired with anti-Scientologists to shame his own accusers by ‘accusing’ them of making their claims on behalf of the Church of Scientology,” the statement read. “The claim is absurd and patently false.”
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