UPDATED To include comment from the Church of Scientology.
Facing fresh allegations of sexual misconduct, Paul Haggis today postulated that the new charges were a tactic to force a mutimillion dollar settlement or the result of his long estrangement from Scientology.
Three women have come forward to accuse Haggis of sexual misconduct after Haleigh Breest filed a civil suit last month accusing the Oscar-winning filmmaker of rape, the Associated Press reports. All three of the women approached Breest’s Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP attorneys with their claims.
Christine Lepera, attorney for the 64-year-old screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby and Crash director has denied allegations of non-consensual sex. In fact, the lawyer denies the anonymous claims “in whole” for her client and floats larger moves at play. (See Haggis’ lawyer’s full statement below)
“No one has reached out to anyone on Mr. Haggis’ team other than the press to report this,” Lepera said in a statement to Deadline. “He views the fact that these reports appear to be spearheaded from the law-firm representing Ms. Breest, as a further tactic to try to harm him and continue their effort to obtain money. Mr. Haggis also questions whether Scientology has any role here, which he notes has been attacking him for years with false accusations.”
Update: The Church of Scientology has denied any involvement in what it calls Haggis’ “absurd, paranoid and bigoted conspiracy theory.”
Once a 30-year valued member of the organization, Haggis publicly broke with Scientology in 2009 to become one of its harshest critics. A role that today, as he has in the past, the director says puts him on the Church’s Enemies list.
The new accusers, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the powerful Hollywood figure lured them into secluded places, ostensibly to discuss business, and attempted to force himself on them. Their accounts could not be independently corroborated by Deadline.
One woman was a 28-year-old publicist working on a television show Haggis was producing in 1996 when he asked her to review photos from the show that night, in her office. “I thought it was odd, but I agreed. He was the ultimate boss,” the woman told the AP.
When Haggis arrived for the meeting, everyone else had left the office for the night. He insisted they speak in a back office, then began kissing her as they walked into the room. “I was really resisting. He said to me, ’Do you really want to continue working?’” the woman told the AP. “And then he really forced himself on me.”
The woman said Haggis made her perform oral sex, then pushed her to the floor and raped her. The woman was so traumatized and fearful after the encounter, she asked a friend to accompany her to work the next day. A friend corroborated the account. The woman said she was inspired to speak out after reading press accounts of Breest’s civil suit of December.
Facing a counter-suit from Haggis, the publicist alleged the Crash director raped her in 2013 after he lured her back into his apartment his apartment in Manhattan following a film premiere. Haggis and his lawyers claim that Breest threatened to go public with her accusations unless she was paid $9 million. “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,” Haggis’ filing of December 15 declares. “Plaintiff will not allow either the false narrative or the extortion to succeed.”
In today’s accusations, a third women says she was in her 30s when she met Haggis in Los Angeles to pitch a TV show in the late 2000s. She arrived for a 9 p.m. meeting and others in the office quickly left. The accussor said Haggis had a bottle of wine open on his desk and told her he had an arrangement with his wife that permitted him to have extramarital affairs.
Haggis attempted to kiss her, she asserted to the AP, and she grabbed her key and managed to drive away. The woman called her sister and several friends to tell them what happened — one of whom told AP she remembered being told about the incident.
Another woman described a 2015 encounter in Canada in which Haggis forcibly kissed her and followed her into her cab. When the taxi arrived at her apartment, Haggis threw money at the driver, chased her and kissed her again before she was able to escape to safety in her residence. He allegedly sent harassing text messages until she blocked him.
Here’s Haggis’ full statement:
Mr. Haggis denies these anonymous claims in whole.
In a society where one of a person’s fundamental rights is the ability to confront an accuser, that right has now been eviscerated when it comes to anyone being charged in the press with any sort of sexual misconduct.
Notably, no one has reached out to anyone on Mr. Haggis’ team other than the press to report this.
He views the fact that these reports appear to be spearheaded from the law-firm representing Ms. Breest, as a further tactic to try to harm him and continue their effort to obtain money.
Mr. Haggis also questions whether Scientology has any role here, which he notes has been attacking him for years with false accusations.
We reiterate our claim against Ms. Breest, and note again that we initiated the legal proceedings, not Ms. Breest.