Paul Haggis ‘totally innocent’ following sexual assault arrest in Italy, attorney says
Paul Haggis’ lawyer claimed the Oscar-winning director is “totally innocent” after reports surfaced he was arrested in the southern region of Italy on Sunday and placed under investigation of allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman.
“Under Italian Law, I cannot discuss the evidence,” Haggis’ lawyer Priya Chaudhry told Fox News Digital. “That said, I am confident that all allegations will be dismissed against Mr. Haggis.
“He is totally innocent, and willing to fully cooperate with the authorities so the truth comes out quickly.”
Haggis, 69, has been in Italy for the Allora film festival that begins on Tuesday in Ostuni, a tourist town in Puglia, the region that forms the “heel” of the Italian peninsula.
Paul Haggis attends the AmiCorti Film Festival 2021 on June 16, 2021 in Peveragno, Italy.
HILARY SWANK STUNNED THAT ‘MILLION DOLLAR BABY’ WRITER PAUL HAGGIS ACCUSED BY 4 WOMEN OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
The news agency LaPresse, and several additional Italian media groups, carried a written statement from prosecutors in the city of Brindisi that they were investigating allegations a “young foreign woman” — meaning non-Italian — was forced to have “non-consensual” sexual relations over two days with the Canadian screenwriter.
Prosecutors Antonio Negro and Livia Orlando, who are conducting the investigation, said in the statement that the woman was “forced to seek medical care” following the sexual encounters.
Italian news media reported that after a few days “of non-consensual relations, the woman was accompanied by the man” to Brindisi airport on Sunday and “was left there at dawn despite (her) precarious physical and psychological conditions.”
Prosecutors said airport staff and police noticed her “obvious confused state,” and after initial treatment, took her to Brindisi’s police headquarters, where officers accompanied her to a local hospital for examination.
Authorities said they weren’t authorized to give out information about the case, including her nationality or age, or Haggis’ whereabouts.
Paul Haggis won Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for "Crash" in 2006.
( J. Vespa)
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Haggis won the Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2006 for “Crash,” which was inspired by his own real-life incident where he was carjacked outside a store in Los Angeles.
The Canadian director, who also wrote “Million Dollar Baby” and “Flags of Our Fathers,” has been accused of rape and sexual misconduct by a total of four women, citing incidents that allegedly occurred between 1996 and 2015.
Publicist Haleigh Breest filed a civil lawsuit in December 2017, and claimed Haggis raped her on Jan. 31, 2013 in a New York City apartment. Her suit prompted three additional women to come forward under the condition of anonymity, according to AP.
Haggis was a Scientologist for 35 years and left the church in 2009. Shortly after the lawsuits, Leah Remini and her “Scientology and the Aftermath” co-host, Mike Rinder, released a lengthy statement defending Haggis and claiming the women in question may have suspect motivations for coming forward.
“There is plenty of reason to worry about defending anyone accused of sexual assault in today’s climate. But the fear of consequences for speaking our truth has not held us back in the past and isn’t about to start now,” they wrote. “We have supported victims of sexual abuse who have reached out to us and have worked with them and law enforcement to ensure justice is done for both victims and the accused. We have avoided trial by media.”
Remini questioned Haggis’ sexual assault accusers’ affiliation with their previous religion. The pair were seen in 2015 where Remini signed copies of her book, "Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology."
(Debra L Rothenberg)
In their post, they defended Haggis’ character and suggested the Church of Scientology is behind the three additional accusers that are “suddenly appearing out of the woodwork.”
“We expect the next ‘revelations’ about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information culled from his Scientology files in the form of more ‘anonymous’ accusers, hiding behind a lawyer who will never have to dis who is paying their bill.”
Haggis has denied the original rape allegation in a counter-complaint and said the accuser and her lawyer had demanded a $9 million payment to avoid legal action, which he characterized as extortion.
“Paul Haggis deserves, based on his record as a gentleman and humanitarian, to be judged when all the evidence has been taken under penalty of perjury in a court of law,” Remini and Rinder wrote. “Because claims of anonymous accusers who have NOT gone to law enforcement are not credible.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.