Oscar-winning film director Paul Haggis has been given a trial date for his rape lawsuit in New York City after being accused of attacking a publicist.
Haggis is set to stand trial from October 11 before Judge Sabrina Kraus, Variety reports. He was accused of rape by Haleigh Breest, a film publicist, in 2017. She alleges she was raped by Haggis at his apartment in 2013 following a film premiere.
But Haggis claims the encounter was consensual and has called the allegations an attempt at extortion.
Following Breest’s lawsuit in 2017, three more women accused Haggis of sexual misconduct in January 2018, including one who alleges she was raped by him.
Haggis attempted to expedite the trial, citing mounting legal bills and an inability to work until his name is cleared, but his request was denied.
The director, whose co-wrote the 2006 Oscar-winning film ‘Crash’, is currently under under detention after being arrested in southern Italy. A British woman has claimed that he raped her in a two-day ordeal earlier this month.
Haggis has denied wrongdoing, and an Italian judge has ordered him to remain at the hotel while police investigate the claims.
Paul Haggis (left) is set to stand trial from October 11 before Judge Sabrina Kraus, Variety reports. He was accused of rape by Haleigh Breest, a film publicist, in 2017
Breest alleges she was raped by Haggis at his apartment in 2013 following a film premiere. But Haggis claims the encounter was consensual and has called the allegations an attempt at extortion
Haggis, who co-wrote, directed and produced Crash, which won the 2006 Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay, is pictured with his lawyers outside the court in Italy
Prosecutors have said he is under investigation for alleged aggravated sexual violence and aggravated personal injuries.
After conducting a hearing that lasted several hours in the Brindisi courthouse, Judge Vilma Gilli issued the ruling that extends his detention at the farmhouse residence in the countryside of Ostuni, a tourist town where he was supposed to participate in an arts festival this week, Corriere della Sera daily reported.
Haggis’ lawyer, Michele Laforgia, said after the hearing that his client, before the judge, had reiterated his total innocence and is in ‘hopeful expectation’ that he will be ultimately vindicated.
Prosecutors have described the woman as young and foreign. State TV and other Italian media said she is a 30-year-old Englishwoman who had known Haggis before he came to Ostuni.
Asked by a reporter what kind of relationship Haggis and the woman had, Laforgia replied that it had been a ‘relationship of acquaintance.’
The lawyer said the defense disputes a hospital report indicating that the woman had suffered physical injuries.
‘Paul Haggis answered all questions and explained what happened,’ Laforgia told reporters outside the courthouse. ‘He declared himself, as he had already done right after the detention, completely innocent, in the sense that the relations he had with this woman were totally consensual.’
A request for release from house arrest was later turned down by an Italian judge and he will have to remain in Italy while the investigation continues.
Ahead of his hearing local media carried details of a seven page memo he is said to have drawn up for his lawyer in which he reportedly claimed that he had met the woman at Monte Carlo in April at a film festival and the two had remained in touch via WhatsApp.
Haggis claimed the pair had spoken briefly in Monte Carlo and she had expressed a desire to be in the next James Bond film and later posted a picture with him saying it was ‘an honour to meet’ him.
Haggis, who co-wrote, directed and produced Crash, which won the 2006 Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay, is pictured with his lawyers outside the court in Italy Haggis is pictured scanning through metal detectors at the Brindisi law court in southern Italy
He then described how the two had then met at Ostuni near Brindisi in June and they had driven to his hotel where she then ‘kissed’ him passionately.
Haggis in the memo goes on to claim the two then had sex after she had taken a shower, underlining it had been consensual and the following day they had gone out together ahead of the Allora Film Festival in Ostuni which he was attending as a guest with his daughter.
He told his lawyer that the woman had ‘insisted’ on holding his hand – which he said he was not comfortable with – and she had been left upset by his reaction.
Once back at their room he claimed the pair then had consensual sex again, the following day Haggis said he left her as he had a business appointment and she met with friends before that evening they met again, according to his leaked statement, where they once again had consensual sex.
In mid-June he claimed the woman had gone out again with friends but returned drunk and tried to have sex with him but he had refused and had then began describing how she was the next Bond girl.
The statement then goes on to allege that the following day early in the morning Haggis took the woman to Brindisi airport for her flight back to Stansted where she asked him for money but he refused and drove away.
Staff later found her in a distressed state and police were called and she told them that she had been locked up for the last three days and forced to have sex with Haggis.
Haggis co-wrote, directed and produced Crash, which won the 2006 Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay. He also wrote the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, another Oscar winner.