Screenwriter and director Paul Haggis, who is due to stand trial for allegedly raping publicist Haleigh Breest, will also face charges of violating a New York City law aimed at preventing “gender-motivated violence.”
That was the determination of the First Department of New York’s Appellate Division in a ruling released Thursday.
“Without consent, sexual acts such as those alleged in the complaint are a violation of the victim’s bodily autonomy and an expression of the perpetrator’s contempt for that autonomy,” the ruling said. “Coerced sexual activity is dehumanizing and fear-inducing. Malice or ill will based on gender is apparent from the alleged commission of the act itself. Animus inheres where consent is absent.”
Paul Haggis Abandons His Own Appeal Against Rape Claims By Publicist; Going Broke
In 2000, the New York City Council passed the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law, commonly known by the acronym VGM. The action came in response to a 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that found that Congress could not enact the federal Violence Against Women Act of 1994.
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Breest has claimed that Haggis — who won two Oscars for Crash, which he wrote and directed — assaulted her in 2013 after the two attended the premiere of the film Side Effects. A New York judge in the summer of 2018 ruled that the case could proceed. Haggis has maintained that the sexual contact with Breest was consensual. The trial is expected to start in February.
While the appeals court decision about the VGM charge is an overall victory for Breest, the appellate judges found that additional allegations of sexual assault against other alleged victims (referred to as “Jane Doe”) should be stricken. “The Jane Doe allegations herein are not necessary to satisfy the animus requirement of VGM,” the judges wrote in their ruling. “Accordingly, they should be stricken from the complaint as they serve no purpose at this juncture and tend to prejudice defendant.”
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