Updated with additional testimony, 5:09pm: Back at the witness stand on Thursday, Paul Haggis denied sexually assaulting any of the four Jane Doe who testified in support of Haley Priest, the New York woman who is suing the Academy Award-winning director and former member of the Church of Scientology for allegedly raping her in 2013.
On the podium for a second day, Haggis ended his direct testimony in the civil trial relating to sexual assault by saying that these “terrible false allegations” left him “scared” and “offended”.
“I’m scared because I don’t know why women or anyone would lie about things like this, make up or distort the truth,” Haggis said for more than seven hours while being questioned by his attorney Priya Choudhury. “I don’t know.”
“Seeing my daughters sitting in the courtroom now, my son and my family,” he said in a paused voice, “I am offended by these false allegations.”
Haggis also faced 90 minutes of questioning by Brest attorney Ilan Mazel, which will continue on Friday. Judge Sabrina Krause asked jurors to sign closing arguments on Monday.
Haggis has denied, in varying degrees of detail, individual accounts by Jane Does who testified either in person or through testimonies about incidents that occurred between 1996 and 2015. The deadline does not identify the women.
One woman testified that Haggis raped her in 1996 in his production office in Toronto for the television show. deserved south. Haggis said he was already back in Los Angeles by then.
Another woman said Haggis came to her in 2008 during a meeting at the movie production headquarters in Santa Monica, saying, “I want to be inside you,” and she ran away from the building. Haggis said that his actual words were, “I want to sit next to you,” and that his only mistake was “exaggerating” his personal life and poor self-image before turning to sit near you.
He said he took her outside to her car and said goodbye. She testified that they kept in touch and that she requested his help in obtaining a US work visa.
A third woman said Haggis drove her alone to his hotel suite at a 2008 film and television festival in Banff, Alberta, with the false promise of an after party. There she testified, Haggis tried to kiss her, followed her outside the hotel and groped her breasts from the taxi stand before pushing her toward a taxi.
“It’s not true at all,” Haggis said. “If I were to touch her breasts,” he said, he “had a great opportunity to do so if I chose to do so” when she was at his ward. He said his party guests eventually showed up.
A fourth woman said Haggis tried to force her out of her Toronto apartment building in 2015 but backed away when a passerby heard her screaming. In her account, she said she got out of a taxi trip she had spent cursing him to “take out the villain,” followed her to the front door, throwing cash at the driver.
Haggis said he wasn’t carrying cash, and his attorney showed jurors a credit card bill containing a substance he said was intended for that trip. It took three or four minutes to process the card payment in the cabin, Haggis said, and that the woman waited patiently for him at the sidewalk before he saw her to the building door. He said, “I waved and walked away.”
His voice rose as he objected to the fourth woman’s “vulgar” allegations that Haggis had called his ex-wife, Deborah Renard, a “whore” and told her details about his sex with her. “She is my best friend,” Haggis said, almost sobbing, and Raynard was sitting in the courtroom the day after she testified in his favour. “I never called her that.”
Haggis is also back in his defense of Scientology once again. He repeated a claim from another former scientist, Mike Rinder, who testified that an Australian television news program withdrew a multi-part investigation into Brest’s lawsuit a day before the first part was scheduled to air.
Hughes said the investigative reporter behind the revelations told him in advance that he had evidence that Scientology — which Haggis denounced as a “cult” after he resigned in 2009 — was trying to “blackmail, coerce, or kidnap” women to get them to fabricate allegations against Haggis. Judge Krause ordered the jury to disregard this statement from Haggis, whose legal team did not put the reporter on stage or show the jurors any documentation of his claim.
Haggis also endorsed an assertion by Rinder that when Scientology intends to defame or destroy an enemy, “you’ll never know.”
“They left their footprints everywhere, but not their fingerprints,” Haggis said.
Haggis noted the testimony of a former Scientologist, Shauna Lee Brakfield, that after Haggis left the church, she received a call from a high-ranking Scientology official asking her to help him dig up the dirt.
In cross-examination, Mazel challenged Haggis’ self-description to jurors as a “high school dropout” who had made his way into the Hollywood royal family. Haggis admitted that he went to a boarding school in his native Canada, was fired for breaking into an administrative office by picking out locks and altering his records, and at his next school, he stole a checkbook from another student and used it to forge a check. To buy himself running shoes.
Mazel investigated inconsistencies between Haggis’ written statements in response to Brest’s lawsuit and his testimony on the podium. Priest testified that Haggis forced her to have oral sex and intercourse. Haggis testified that he slept during consensual oral sex initiated by Priest and that he “doesn’t remember” having intercourse with her or ejaculating at any time.
Over the objections of Haggis’ attorney, which Krause supported, jurors heard Mazel say that Haggis “pretentiously pretended to be someone else” when the procedural servant attempted to deliver him Brest’s first complaint, and that Haggis resisted a subpoena over his DNA—and was forced by court order to give a swab of Cheek – as soon as he learned that Brest kept the socks she had worn that night. A DNA expert said a stocking test revealed semen, which may have belonged to Haggis.
Haggis, in his direct testimony, invoked Scientology again, saying that his “growing skepticism” about the Church’s role in the lawsuit made him fearful of turning over his DNA. He said that Scientologists once planted a critic’s fingerprints on messages containing bomb threats in a plot that was discovered years later due to an FBI raid on Scientology offices.
Previously, 12:30 p.m.: Paul Haggis returned to the witness stand today and said that the only sex he can remember with Halle Priest in his apartment in 2013 was consensual and limited to the oral sex that she initiated.
Haggis has yet to face an investigation in the New York civil sexual assault case brought against him by Priest, who claims the Oscar-winner Collide The director and a former member of the Church of Scientology forced her to have oral sex and intercourse after they were at a movie screening party. On his second day on the podium, Haggis followed up with a detailed and entirely different interpretation of Brest’s account of what happened in his apartment.
Haggis testified that a few times, Brest backed away from kissing Haggis in the kitchen and said, “No, I shouldn’t,” and then, in the guest bedroom as he was taking off his tights, said, “No no no, I don’t want you to see me. I Fat.” Haggis described the protests in the kitchen as “a cartoonish Betty Boop-y kind of hilarious, smiling ‘No, I shouldn’t,'” and that they both started kissing more.
After another pause, he took a step back, and said he asked her, “How old are you? Are you a teenager? If you want to do something, do it. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it,” repeating what he said was the only good advice he got. It’s from a Scientology official.
He denied that he said it angrily or that he used an expletive in Brest’s recollection of this exchange: “Don’t act like an 18-year-old f*cking.”
When she broke another kiss and backed off, Haggis said he asked her, “You’re not afraid of me, are you?” Contrary to what Priest recalled, “You’re afraid of me, aren’t you?”
Haggis said he offered to escort Brest to the lobby and put her in a taxi home. “It seemed conflicting in a way,” he said. “It’s not like they were really conflicting but they should be conflicting or something.” He said she continued to smile and deal with him.
I stayed, and after a tour of the apartment that included Haitian art in the bathroom and Oscar statues in his office, they ended up in the guest bedroom.
Haggis’ attorney, Priya Choudhury, led Haggis through an intentional and sometimes second-hand account of the encounter. The same method of interrogation, when applied to her interrogation of Brest, prompted a complaint from Brest’s lawyer that Choudary was asking her to “re-enact her rape”.
In response, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Sabrina Krause asked both parties to get more verbal testimonies and fewer physical gestures. Haggis left his seat at the witness stand on Thursday primarily to map, as Priest did, his movements inside the apartment that night on the bombing of the floorplan.
Haggis said the two kissed more in the bedroom, lay down on the bed and began to undress. When I protested that she did not want to see her without her tights, he said he got up, turned off the bedroom light, lowered the hall light, and went back to the bedroom. He said that she then helped him take off his socks, laughed, and that she had oral sex with him while they were both partly dressed.
Haggis said he slept on the bed during the sexual encounter, got up later to go to the bathroom and went back to his bedroom. When he woke up the next morning, he went into the guest bedroom and found that Brest had left without noticing.
Eric Pedersen contributed to this report.
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