The Academy Award-winning director Paul Haggis, who has been at the center of several #MeToo era sexual assault cases, has been found liable in one of his rape lawsuits. He was ordered by a jury to pay his victim $7.5 million, RadarOnline.com has learned.
The New York City jury found the director liable and turned over the $7.5 million verdict, as well as additional punitive damages to be awarded. An amount for punitive damages has not yet been determined.
Haggis was accused by publicist Haleigh Breest of sexual assault and rape following a film after-party in 2013.
The director denied the allegations and attempted to blame the Church of Scientology. Ultimately, the jury sided with Breest and found Haggis liable and that the encounter inflicted psychological and professional consequences on his victim.
Haggis was best known for writing the Oscar-winning best picture, Million Dollar Baby, however, his legacy is now stained thanks to the jury's verdict.
"I thought I was getting a ride home. I agreed to have a drink. What happened never should have happened," Breest told jurors. "And it had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with him and his actions."
In her lawsuit against Haggis, she alleged that the director offered her a ride home following a film's after-party in New York City in 2013. On the ride home, Breest claimed Haggis wanted to have a drink. The publicist said that she wanted to go to a public place but Haggis allegedly insisted on the pair going back to his Manhattan apartment.
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Once the director and publicist arrived at the apartment, Breest claimed the director subjected her to several unwanted sexual advances, including oral copulation. She claimed that Haggis then raped her.
The director denied the allegations and claimed the event was consensual. Haggis alleged that Breest was flirtatious but seemed "conflicted." He could not recall whether or not they engaged in sex.
It wasn't until the #MeToo movement, which exposed violent sexual acts from Hollywood's most prominent figures like Harvey Weinstein, that Breest felt empowered to bring the lawsuit forward.
Breest revealed that after Haggis condemned Weinstein's actions in the wake of #MeToo, she was enraged by his hypocrisy and decided to file the lawsuit.
"This man raped me, and he is presenting himself as a champion of women to the world," Breest recalled thinking.
Four additional women testified to Haggis' aggressive sexual advances, which included another allegation of rape.
"The behavior showed me that he was somebody who was never going to stop," one woman said as she testified against Haggis. The woman — who is not named due to the nature of the case — recalled the director repeatedly attempting to kiss her against her will. The woman also claimed that Haggis followed her in and out of her taxi, which she took to her Toronto apartment, without her consent in 2015.
Haggis denied the allegation and said, "I’m scared because I don’t know why women, why anyone, would lie about things like this."
The four women who testified in the trial did not bring legal action against Haggis for the allegations that dated back to 1996.