Four women who accused Paul Haggis of sexual assault will be allowed to testify at his upcoming civil trial – but any mention of the director’s recent rape arrest in Italy will be barred, a New York judge has ruled.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Sabrina Kraus is also allowing Haggis to present evidence he claims will prove the lawsuit from publicist Haleigh Breest — which goes before a jury next month — was concocted by the Church of Scientology.
The Oscar-winning “Crash” filmmaker and Breest have been duking it out in court since 2017, when she filed suit claiming he raped her during a one-night stand on Jan. 31, 2013. The case is set to go to trial on Oct. 11, and the two sides are now arguing over whether jurors can hear certain evidence at trial.
Kraus, in a ruling on Friday, said she wouldn’t allow Haggis’ June arrest in Italy on accusations of rape to come in at trial since the “allegations have not been sustained and were deemed insufficient to keep [Haggis’] under arrest.”
The judge, however, said she would allow four other women who’ve accused Haggis of sexual assault to testify in the case, over objections from his attorneys. The case rises and falls on whether Breest consented to their sexual encounter – and the other women’s testimony can give weight to her claims that she didn’t, Kraus ruled.
She cited a similar appellate court ruling that allowed other women to testify against Harvey Weinstein at his 2020 criminal trial in Manhattan, though he wasn’t charged over their allegations. Weinstein is currently appealing that ruling with New York’s highest court.
The judge will also allow Haggis to bring in evidence that he says will prove that the Church of Scientology is behind Breest’s allegations against him. Haggis, who left Scientology in 2009 after 30 years, has claimed the church has a “vendetta” against him for speaking out about it.
Kraus found that the jury is entitled to hear his defense argument that the church was “seeking to embroil Haggis in ruinous, false allegations regarding women prior to Breest’s allegations,” the ruling reads.
Haggis, 69, does not deny that he slept with Breest but he claims the encounter was consensual.
Haggis claims that because of his efforts to expose the church, it dug up dirt on him, persuaded women to bring false accusations of sexual misconduct against him — and that Breest’s case is part of that campaign to destroy his reputation.
“The whole world knows that Scientology has been hellbent on destroying Paul Haggis from the moment he spoke out against them,” Haggis’ lawyer Priya Chaudhry told The Post. “The Italian courts quickly found that the accuser in Italy completely lacked credibility. We expect that a New York jury will do the same.”
Breest’s legal team said in a statement: “Over Paul Haggis’ objection, Judge Kraus ruled that multiple other women can testify that Haggis assaulted them, too.
“Their powerful sworn testimony will be damning to Haggis and stands in stark contrast to the complete lack of evidence for Haggis’s sham scientology conspiracy theory.”