Jury orders Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis to pay at least $7.5 million to rape accuser | CBC News

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A jury in a civil trial in New York on Thursday ordered Academy Award-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis to pay at least $7.5 million to a woman who accused him of rape. one of several #MeToo-era cases that have brought the behavior of some Hollywood notables to trial this fall.

Jurors also plan to award additional punitive damages.

The civil court trial pitted Haggis, known for writing best picture Oscar winners, against each other. million dollar Baby Y Shockagainst Haleigh Brest, a publicist who met him while working movie premieres in the early 2010s.

After an after-screening party in January 2013, Haggis offered Brest a ride home and invited her to his New York apartment for a drink.

Brest, 36, said Haggis then subjected her to unwanted advances and eventually forced her to perform oral sex and raped her despite her pleas for him to stop. Haggis, 69, said the publicist flirted and, although he seemed “conflicted” at times, initiated kissing and oral sex in a fully consensual interaction. He said he couldn’t remember if they had sex.

After a day of deliberations, the jury sided with Breest, who said he suffered psychological and professional consequences from his encounter with Haggis. She sued in late 2017.

While awarding him $7.5 million dollars to compensate for the suffering, the jury concluded that punitive damages should also be awarded. Jurors return Monday for more court proceedings to help them decide that amount.

After hugging her lawyers, Brest said she was “very grateful” for the verdict as she left court. In a statement released later, she said she was thankful “that the jury decided to follow the facts and believe me.”

Haggis said he was “very disappointed with the results”.

“I’m going to continue, with my team, to fight to clear my name,” he said as he left the courthouse with his three adult daughters. One had wept on the shoulder of a sister when the verdict was pronounced.

Other cases of #MeToo

The verdict came weeks after another civil jury, in the federal courthouse next door, decided that Kevin Spacey did not sexually assault fellow actor and then-teenager Anthony Rapp in 1986.

In the meantime, That 70’s Show Actor Danny Masterson and former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein are being tried separately on criminal rape charges in Los Angeles. Both deny the allegations, and Weinstein is appealing a conviction in New York.

The four cases followed the rise of allegations, disclosures and demands for accountability over #MeToo sexual misconduct, triggered by October 2017 news reports of decades of allegations about Weinstein.

Brest, in particular, said she decided to sue Haggis because his public condemnations of Weinstein angered her.

Publicist Haleigh Brest, left, arrives in court in New York on November 2, 2022. (Julia Nikhinson/The Associated Press)

Four other women also testified that they experienced forceful and unwelcome passes, and in one case, rape, by Haggis in separate encounters dating back to 1996. None of the four pursued legal action.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Brest has done.

Haggis denied all the accusations. His defense introduced jurors to several women, including his ex-wife and ex dallas cast member Deborah Rennard, who said the writer-director took it in stride when they turned down his romantic or sexual overtures.

During three weeks of testimony, the trial analyzed the text messages that Brest sent to his friends about what happened with Haggis, the emails between them before and after the night in question, and some differences between his testimony and what they said in court. the first court documents.

The two sides debated whether Haggis was physically capable of carrying out the alleged attack eight weeks after spinal surgery. Psychological experts offered conflicting perspectives on what were called widespread misconceptions about the behavior of rape victims, such as the assumption that victims would have no further contact with their attackers.

Scientology one approach

Jurors also heard extensive testimony about the Church of Scientology, the religion founded by science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. Haggis was an adherent for decades before resigning and publicly denouncing Scientology in 2009. .

Through the testimony of Haggis and other former members, his defense argued that the church set out to discredit him and that he might have had something to do with the lawsuit.

No witnesses said they knew Haggis’s accusers or Breest’s attorneys had ties to Scientology, and her attorneys acknowledged that Breest herself does not. Still, Haggis’ attorney, Priya Chaudhry, tried to persuade jurors that there were “traces, though perhaps not fingerprints, of Scientology involvement here.”

The church said in a statement that it had nothing to do with the matter, arguing that Haggis is trying to embarrass his accusers with an “absurd and patently false” claim.

Breest’s lawyers, Ilann Maazal and Zoe Salzman, have called it “a shameful and baseless conspiracy theory.”

Haggis, born in Canada, wrote episodes of series as well known as different strokes Y Thirties in the 1980s It broke into movies with a splash with million dollar Baby Y Shock, which he also directed and co-produced. Each film won the Academy Award for best picture, in 2004 and 2005 respectively, and Haggis also won a screenwriting Oscar for Shock.

His other credits include writing scripts for the James Bond movies. Royal Casino Y amount of consolation.

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