A jury has found filmmaker Paul Haggis liable in a sexual assault case brought by a former publicist who alleged he raped her after a film premiered in 2013.
The jury ordered the Oscar-winning screenwriter to pay Haleigh Breest at least $7.5 million in damages on Thursday, according to attorneys for Breest and Haggis.
Breest brought the case under the New York City Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Act.
Attorney Ilann Maazel, who represents Breest, told CNN by phone: “We are grateful. We are grateful. The jury was methodical and served justice today. We’re proud, not just for Haleigh but for the entire #MeToo movement.
In a statement to CNN, Haggis’ attorney Priya Chaudhry said, “We are disappointed and shocked by this verdict.”
“It was impossible for Mr Haggis to get a fair trial once the judge allowed statements from 4 other women who never went to the police, never brought charges against him and 3 out of 4 never never even entered the courtroom,” added the lawyer. “They used this to twist the truth, murder the character of Mr Haggis, portray him as a monster and use a ‘where there is smoke there is fire’ strategy. No one could have had a fair trial in this courtroom under these circumstances. This is a shameful exploitation of the #MeToo movement where political sentiment trumps facts.
Breest alleged that Haggis sexually assaulted her on the evening of Jan. 31, 2013, at her Manhattan apartment when she was 26 — “less than half Mr. Haggis’ age,” according to the complaint filed with the branch of the State Supreme Court in New York. York County in 2017.
“The emotional and psychological damage caused to Ms. Breest by the attack cannot be overstated: it was profound and lasting,” the complaint states.
The incident happened after Haggis and Breest attended a movie premiere, according to the complaint. Toward the end of the event, Haggis offered Breest a ride home, according to the complaint.
Once in his vehicle, Haggis invited Breest for a drink.
“Ms. Breest told him she was ready to go to a public bar, but said she didn’t want to go to his apartment. Mr. Haggis insisted they go to his apartment,” the statement reads. complaint.
Breest “relented” after being “confronted with his perseverance” and after acknowledging that he was a “powerful member of Hollywood’s elite who could influence his career,” according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges that Haggis made unwanted sexual advances and forcibly kissed her.
“She repeatedly told him ‘no’ but he wouldn’t stop,” the complaint said.
Haggis ushered Breest into the bedroom where he forced himself on her and eventually raped her despite her efforts to push him away, according to the complaint.
Maazel told CNN the punitive damages trial will likely continue on Monday, where he expects Haggis to speak.
Haggis is a director, producer and screenwriter. His film credits include “Crash,” which won him Oscars for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the 2006 Oscars. He also received a nomination for his screenplay for the multi-Oscar-winning “Million Dollar Baby.”
The filmmaker was arrested in Italy on sexual assault allegations earlier this year while there to attend a film festival. A lawyer for Haggis denied the allegations.