Paul Haggis accuser faces cross-examination in civil trial in New York – Deadline

Haleigh Breest, the woman who accuses the Oscar-winning actress Accident director Paul Haggis of raping her in 2013, ended his direct testimony on Friday with a final round of friendly questioning from one of his lawyers, Zoe Salzman – then faced a more combative interrogation that lasted nearly three hours without a break.

A Haggis attorney, Priya Chaudhry, confronted Breest about her sex life, drinking, prescription drug use and actions the night she went to Haggis’ apartment in Manhattan.

In front of a six-person jury of three men and three women, with three alternates also seated, Chaudhry presented Breest with his earlier testimony in the civil sexual assault trial in New York. In cross-examination that at times got to the point, Breest, a freelance film publicist at the time, said she voluntarily went to the filmmaker’s apartment following a movie screening after-party she had helped organize and run, and drank wine with him after she drank at the party.

In testimony guided by Chaudhry’s questions, with Breest often struggling to limit herself to yes or no answers, she said she remained in the apartment even after Haggis kissed her without warning. “He drooled all over my face,” she testified, with Chaudhry pushing back, “Yes or no, did he kiss you for a few seconds?” “Yes,” Breest replied.

She said that while they were drinking wine in the kitchen, Haggis suddenly leaned her against a fridge and said, “You’re scared of me, aren’t you?” He also asked her her age, and when she said 26, he replied, “Don’t act like you’re 18.”

She said she was really scared – “I was so scared and embarrassed” – but answered “no” to his question, what she said in cross-examination was not true. She put up a “front”, she said, with a man she previously described as a friend of her boss at the movie events company. She made no effort to retrieve the shoes and tote bag she had left in the kitchen, near a hallway leading to a private elevator to the lobby, and she accepted a tour of the apartment. which ended in the guest bedroom, where she said the rape took place.

“Mr. Haggis didn’t force you into this room, did he?” Chaudhry asked.

“No,” Breest said.

Breest said Haggis pushed her onto the guest bed and, during a struggle, stripped her of her tights, dress and sweater. “But during the struggle, you never kicked him once, did you?” said Chaudhry.

“Okay,” Breest said.

She said Haggis, kneeling on the bed, then took off her own clothes.

“Are you just sitting naked on the bed watching Mr. Haggis take off his shirt?” asked Chaudry. Breest called this a “false characterization”.

The three-hour exchange ended shortly after and will resume after the jurors return after lunch.

The trial began this week in a Manhattan courtroom with graphic testimony over three days from Breest. Describing the assault, she said: “I was like a trapped animal,” she told jurors on Thursday.

Breest went public with her rape complaint in 2017 amid a flurry of reports about film producer Harvey Weinstein serially sexually abusing women. These revelations spawned a movement and a hashtag, #MeToo, encouraging victims to come forward with their experiences of sexual violence at the hands of powerful – and seemingly untouchable – men.

Breest said she finally decided to speak out four years after the assault when she heard Haggis condemn Weinstein. “Hypocrisy made his blood boil,” Salzman told the court.

As Breest testified Thursday, jurors at a federal courthouse around the corner were reaching a quick verdict in another high-profile sexual misconduct case involving a major figure in the film industry and history. of a traumatic encounter in a New York apartment — but decades earlier — that also blew up #MeToo’s year.

This jury ruled that Anthony Rapp failed to prove his claim that in 1986, when he was 14, 26-year-old Kevin Spacey tried to coerce him into having sex. The quirky #MeToo moment spilled over into a handful of lawsuits pitting accusers against well-known men.

Spacey, like Haggis, faces multiple accusers. Breest’s attorneys say they plan to call up to four other women who will claim they were also victims of Haggis.

Haggis said the sex with Breest was consensual and in his opening arguments his lawyers pointed to texts Breest sent to a friend and colleague that described the sex as ‘rough and aggressive’ but did not call it rape . Salzman, in his opening arguments, read the same text exchange, in which Breest also wrote, “Never again, never again… And I kept saying no.

Haggis also argued that Breest could be a cat’s paw for the Church of Scientology, to which Haggis belonged, then resigned and publicly criticized the organization – known for the celebrities in its ranks and for its willingness to pursue criticism – like a “cult”. ”

The last part of Breest’s attorney’s direct examination touched on this point.

“Are you or have you ever been a member of the Church of Scientology?” Salzman asked.

“No,” Breest said, adding that she had no family in the organization and had never attended any Scientology events.

“Has Scientology provided you with any support in this matter?” asked Salzman. Breest said no, explaining it was a contingency fee arrangement in which her attorneys only receive a portion of any judgment she might receive if jurors find Haggis liable and award her time. silver.

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