After being accused of “a shocking and egregious case of rape and sexual assault” by publicist Haleigh Breest today, Oscar winner Paul Haggis is fighting back in court against what he says were demands for $9 million payment to make “these outrageous and wholly baseless demands” go away.
“There was no such ‘violence, then or ever,” says the Crash producer-director’s lawyers at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP of Breest’s claims of a 2013 assault at Haggis’ NYC apartment after the movie premiere of Side-Effects that the two attended separately. “Since Defendant has threatened to file and publicize lurid factual (and false) assertions against Plaintiff unless he agreed to let her effectively bankrupt him, Plaintiff has experienced severe emotional distress, while simultaneously trying to go on with his life without letting it paralyze him,” adds the unspecified-damages-seeking complaint filed in New York Supreme Court on Friday (read it here).
“In other words, Defendant clearly intended to inflict the utmost emotional distress upon the Plaintiff in order to make her economic plan work. Defendant’s conduct is outrageous and indecent,” the filing asserts. “Plaintiff will not allow either the false narrative or the extortion to succeed.”
Haggis’ filing makes the claim that due to a back injury there is no way he could have forced himself on Breest as she asserts. “Plaintiff had surgery to correct that medical issue shortly before the night Defendant claimed this ‘violence’ occurred, requiring him to wear a post-surgical back brace continuously at the time,” the paperwork says. “He was under a restriction against severe exertion and was unable to lift anything more than a light grocery bag during his recovery period.”
Oddly, the often-purple complaint also makes sure to note the blowback Haggis received when he left and criticized the Church of Scientology several years back as well as “Plaintiff’s extensive charitable efforts, which support thousands of children in impoverished communities.” Calling out a cultural environment of “public hanging” where “headlines pour down like rain every day with ‘explosive’ new claims and allegations of sexual misconduct and impropriety, particularly targeted at the Hollywood male ‘elite,’” the complaint goes on to say that “it is one thing to live in fear of losing one’s career, but quite another to bear the anxiety caused by the knowledge that Defendant’s threats could destroy Plaintiff’s ability to continue to effectively raise money for these children.”
While extremely detailed itself about the rape that allegedly occurred on January 31, 2013, in Haggis’ NYC flat, Breest’s court filing describes an event that seems far from the “friendly, and at times flirtatious, relationship” that Haggis says the two once had.
“The emotional and psychological damage to Ms. Breest from the attack cannot be overstated: it has been profound and lasting,” says the wide-ranging, 12-page complaint filed by attorneys at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP (read it here). “Like many victims of sexual assault, due to a combination of trauma, fear, and shame, Ms. Breest refrained for many years from speaking out about the assault,” the document states. “But Ms. Breest came to realize she could not repress what had happened. She sought mental health treatment and, eventually, gained the courage to come forward.”
Haggis’ complaint gives Breest no more than 30 days to respond or “judgment will be taken against you by default for the relief demanded in the complaint.”