Don’t allow Paul Haggis to mention Scientology in trial, woman suing him asks court
On Tuesday, Haleigh Breest, the former publicist who is suing Paul Haggis alleging that the Crash director raped her in 2013 after attending a movie premiere, filed a lengthy motion asking Judge Sabrina Kraus to limit what Haggis can bring up at their trial, which is scheduled to begin in New York on October 11.
Specifically, Breest is asking the court to prevent Haggis from bringing up the Church of Scientology.
Haggis is well known, of course, for his defection from Scientology in 2009 and then being the subject of Lawrence Wright’s 2011 profile in The New Yorker, “The Apostate,” which formed the basis for Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear and the 2015 HBO documentary of the same name.
At the very end of Wright’s 2011 article, he quoted Haggis predicting that because he was becoming such a visible and vocal critic of an organization known for its reputation for retaliation, Scientology would find a way to ensnare him in a scandal.
“These people have long memories. My bet is that, within two years, you’re going to read something about me in a scandal that looks like it has nothing to do with the church,” he told Wright.
In 2017, Haggis and Breest filed lawsuits against each other within hours on the same day. Breest accused Haggis of raping her, while Haggis’s lawsuit accused her of extorting him. His lawsuit was eventually dismissed, and hers now nears trial. (She has asked Judge Kraus to move the trial’s start date up to October 3, but we haven’t seen a response from the judge about that yet.)
In the five years since those lawsuits were filed, there have been numerous press stories raising the question of whether Scientology might be involved in the case somehow. (Breest has denied, under oath, that she has any connection to Scientology, and the three additional women who joined the case also deny any connection to the church.)
Now, Breest wants Judge Kraus to keep out any mention of Scientology in the trial, saying that it would only distract the jury.
Since the beginning, Haggis and his lawyers have peddled an outright lie in the press: that the Church of Scientology somehow induced Haleigh Breest and all of Haggis’s other sexual assault victims to claim Haggis sexually assaulted them. This was a cynical strategy from the start; Haggis decided that wearing the mantle of anti-Scientologist was the only way to convince the public of his innocence…. Haggis has not produced one shred of evidence to support this bogus story….If introduced at trial, speculation about Scientology would create a cloud over this case, distract the jury, and prejudice Plaintiff. All such speculation—in the form of testimony, documents, or any kind of “evidence” at all—by Haggis, his lawyers, or his witnesses should be precluded.
Breest is also asking the court to keep Haggis from complaining in court that the lawsuit has made it impossible for him to get work as a filmmaker, and that it has made his financial situation untenable.
We can certainly understand why Breest and her attorneys would ask the court for these limitations. In the five years since the lawsuit was filed, we have seen no evidence tying the case to Scientology.
However, we’ll point out that Haggis himself has only ever given one press interview about the lawsuit, and that was to Australian journalist Bryan Seymour as part of a ten-part series in 2020. That series, “Scientology Black Ops” was spiked before it aired, but it was then leaked online. We posted transcripts of the episodes, including the ninth episode, when Seymour interviewed Haggis and asked him directly about Breest’s allegations.
Here are the things Haggis said in that interview. And he didn’t mention Scientology once. He maintained that his encounter with Breest in 2013 was a consensual “one-night stand” and nothing more.
Bryan Seymour: Paul, did you rape Haleigh Breest?
Paul Haggis: Of course I didn’t. No.
Seymour: Why would she make that up?
Haggis: It’s a good question. I don’t know. You know, obviously, you get accused of doing something like that and you know you didn’t do it, I know where I was, I know it was a one-night stand. I know what happened.
Seymour: It was here.
Haggis: It was right here, right here. It was five, six years ago now. I know it was. But…you know, am I proud of having a one night stand? No. I’ve had them a few times in my life and I’m not proud of that. Am I a perfect person in this way, not at all. But do I rape people? Did I rape her? No, of course, of course I did not. I don’t know why people make things up, why they say things that aren’t true, or convince themselves of things that happened that didn’t happen. I don’t know. I can’t tell you.
Seymour: Ms. Breest claims you said to her, ‘You’re scared of me, aren’t you?’ As though you had some sort of misogynistic, violent, sexual approach to her. Did you say that?
Haggis: No, of course I didn’t. I have to be a little careful here because there’s a confidentiality order in place which I really wish wasn’t in place. But in order to have the trial proceed two years ago, we had to sign a confidentiality order. So, assuming that what you’ve learned you’ve learned in public, I can respond to it. But…I would so wish that they would just release the text messages, release the mails, release everything because it proves my innocence, absolutely proves my innocence.
Seymour: Three more women, all anonymous and claiming to have no links to the Church of Scientology, also came forward, speaking through lawyers alleging they too were victims of sexually inappropriate conduct by Paul Haggis.
Haggis: The two women have alleged that I kissed them, and one from 26 years ago alleged that I’d raped her.
Seymour: Again, why would they come forward, albeit anonymously, and make these claims against such a high-profile person unless they were true.
Haggis: I have no idea. I honestly have no idea. All I know is they aren’t true. That’s what I know. Now, have I misread signals in my life? Absolutely. I’ve, have I tried to kiss somebody and had them turn their cheek? Have I misread a signal like that? Absolutely I’ve done that. I don’t know any man who hasn’t. I’m certainly guilty of that. Have I attacked somebody, have I forced something, tried to kiss someone, have I raped someone? No.
We don’t know if Haggis was planning to raise Scientology in the trial, but he didn’t in this interview. Now Breest wants to make sure he doesn’t bring it up in testimony.
Meanwhile, Variety’s Gene Maddaus pointed out that in the same motion, Breest does want to bring in the news that Haggis was arrested in Italy earlier this year in a case that rapidly fell apart.
“Breest’s lawyers are now seeking information about the Italian case, which they may seek to introduce at the New York trial. In a motion filed on Tuesday, they asked Judge Sabrina Kraus to order Haggis’ lawyers to turn over records related to the case,” Maddaus wrote. “Haggis’ lawyers are expected to argue that such evidence would not be admissible, and is not subject to discovery, according to an email that was attached to the motion.”
So, Breest is asking to include news of the case that fell apart in Italy, but she wants to keep out any mention that Haggis is a prominent Scientology defector who predicted in 2011 that he’d be ensnared in a scandal.
We’ll be very interested to see how the judge rules on this.
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Is this a Me Too moment or is it a Xemu moment? Only the trial can tell us which one it is.
Agree that this is an interesting juxtaposition of conflicting views of what is and what is not relevant. At least a judge will get to look at it and a jury in due time.