The Paul Haggis rape trial, in which the Oscar-winning director and screenwriter (and notable ex-Scientologist) stands accused by publicist Haleigh Breest of rape in 2013, continued Monday.
Following testimony from four witnesses who told the court they’d been raped or sexually assaulted by Haggis, a trio of other women took the stand. Two were friends who he’d apparently made a move on; the third was a daughter of the filmmaker, who told the court that despite loving her dad, she’d spent years not speaking to him.
The two female friend witnesses had distinct similarities in that they both met him socially and are much younger than Haggis. They spent their time with Haggis the same way: at a party at his Mercer street apartment, playing the parlor game, Mafia. Later, one witness testified, when spending time alone, Haggis would teach her backgammon, make dinner, and they’d drink wine. The friendships became more intimate, she said, and both met each other’s children.
Witness Sarah McNally—who a certain set of New Yorkers may know as the owner of McNally Jackson Books, said that she met Haggis at a party in 2016, hung out with him “countless times” and got along with him “tremendously well.”
“He taught me how to play backgammon, and invited me to delightful things at his house,” she said in court.
The first time they were alone in his apartment, he moved to kiss her, and McNally turned her head away. “He went, ‘Oh, okay,” she testified. She had written a statement of support on behalf of the screenwriter-director.
Kira Ross, a psychotherapist, testified she met Haggis when she was “26 or 27” at a “game night at his house, playing Mafia.” They had a “platonic friendship.”
“We go out to dinner, watch movies, he’s met my son, I’ve met his, drinks, and just hang out and talk,” Ross testified.
Haggis, she explained, showed romantic interest in her over the first few years of their friendship. The first time she rejected his verbal approach, he was “calm, confident, jovial. We just continued the rest of our day.”
Haggis at a point tried to kiss her, she said, but stopped the kiss when she signaled she did not want to continue. “How did he react? Calm, jovial. ‘OK, your loss.’ Dry, sarcastic humor. He released the embrace,” Ross testified.
And apparently, the two got over the awkwardness and carried on.
Alissa Haggis, Paul Haggis’s daughter, who writes and edits scripts with him, testified about growing up in Scientology, describing it as “very all-encompassing.” She said when exiting the church at 18, she “left very quietly… my sisters were still in and my father was still in. So publicly you can face a lot of backlashes.”
When asked what her father’s importance was in the church when she was growing up, Haggis said, “Dad’s prominence in their church? He was on the cover of their magazine, he was a celebrity in the church.”
But she also said she spent a few years estranged from her famous father.
“I feel we’ve been closer in the last 10 years,” she said. “Especially since I had kids.”
When asked if she knew about any relationship with Breest, the plaintiff who brought the rape lawsuit against her father, Alissa Haggis simply said, “I know he’s in court for it.”
Haggis has said the encounters with Breest and the Jane Does were all consensual, denies he did anything wrong, and has suggested that his bitter break from Scientology has led the church to frame him. Breest has testified that she has no link to the church and is not being propped up by Scientology.
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