Paul Haggis Hit with Pre-Trial Defeat Before Rape Case

The Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Crash” is accused of raping publicist Haleigh Breest after a film premiere in New York in January 2013
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Director Paul Haggis’s three pre-trial motions were struck down Friday ahead of his October 17 trial for an alleged rape that his accuser, Haleigh Breest, says took place in 2017.

Among the denied motions was a request to block from testifying his accuser’s expert, Dr. Lisa M. Rocchio, regarding her psychological evaluation of the plaintiff. Haggis’s team argued that Dr. Rocchio’s testimony “regarding the plaintiff’s conduct should be excluded as unreliable because it is based on plaintiff’s own descriptions of her alleged behavior,” according to court documents.

Judge Sonia Kraus struck down that motion, stating that “expert testimony which reli[es] on statements made by [Plaintiff] in two interviews was proper, as such evidence is clearly generally accepted as reliable in the profession.”

There was also a request for Haggis’s team to conduct a psychological examination of the plaintiff, and a request by the defense team to permit the jury to visit his apartment where the alleged rape took place.

Haggis’s team argued that a home visit was relevant to the “jury’s determination of credibility, because …the actual layout of the apartment conflicts with the deposition testimony that the plaintiff has given,” according to court documents.

However, “the court does not find it necessary for the jury to visit defendant’s apartment,” wrote the judge.

The Oscar-winning screenwriter and director of Crash is accused of raping publicist Haleigh Breest after a film premiere in New York in January 2013. She sued him in 2017, and the case will go to trial next month. Haggis has said that the encounter was consensual, and that the rape charge is retaliation by the Church of Scientology for his decision to leave the church and to eventually become a critic of it.

In court documents, Breest’s lawyers have sought to take down that defense, calling it a “speculative fantasy,” and claiming that neither Breest nor any witnesses have any connection to the church. “Haggis has not produced one shred of evidence to support this bogus story,” they said.

The trial is significant for recent historical reasons, the plaintiff’s team told LAMag.

“It’s one of the first celebrity me too cases to go to civil trial,” says Ilann Maazel, attorney and partner at Emery Celli, the firm that represents Haleigh Breest. “We’e just heard so much disinformation from this defendant, but a trial jury will actually hear from a number of the women and Jane Does. I think will be very powerful.”

The trial is expected to last two weeks.