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Paul Haggis is suing a New York publicist who says he raped her, claiming the woman is an extortionist who is capitalizing on the trauma of genuine victims of sexual assault.
The Crash writer-director sued Haleigh Breest in New York State court Friday afternoon, and she followed with her own lawsuit a few hours later.
Breest claims Haggis raped her in his SoHo apartment in January 2013 following the premiere of Side Effects. She says he insisted she come over for a drink, and she relented despite not wanting to go. Breest claims the unwanted sexual advances began almost immediately, and she describes him violently removing her tights and then forcing sex. She says she told two close friends about the incident and visited Planned Parenthood to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
The publicist says the incident left her emotionally scarred, and she sought mental health treatment in June of this year, during which her psychologist diagnosed her with PTSD. Breest claims Haggis’ public statements in response to Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault scandal outraged her, and she is suing under New York’s Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Act.
Haggis tells a much different story in his lawsuit.
“[O]n the darker side, this maelstrom of media attention, coupled with the immediate guilty verdict from the court of public opinion and the utter and complete damnation of anyone accused of any sexual misconduct, has created an opportunity for persons whose motives and intentions are not so pure, and who are looking for a ride on this cultural wave to take advantage of persons at the center of this narrative,” writes Haggis’ attorney Christine Lepera. “That is this case.”
Haggis claims Breest is an extortionist who last month threatened to file a claim falsely accusing the writer-director of gender violence unless he agreed to a seven-figure settlement. He says he received a threat letter on Nov. 16 from an attorney representing the woman that included an enclosed not-yet-filed complaint. During a Dec. 11 call, Haggis claims Breest’s attorney demanded a $9 million payment.
“The clear goal of Defendant’s demand for such an absurd amount of money from Plaintiff is to scare him into giving this windfall to her to avoid his public hanging,” writes Lepera. “Defendant thinks she can capitalize on the current headlines, believing she will have to prove nothing, and will only have to threaten to destroy Plaintiff.”
Further, Lepera argues Haggis had well-documented back problems not long before the attack in question that would have made Breest’s claims physically impossible.
“Plaintiff had surgery to correct that medical issue shortly before the night Defendant claimed this ‘violence’ occurred, requiring him to wear a post-surgical back brace continuously at the time,” writes Lepera. “He was under a restriction against severe exertion and was unable to lift anything more than a light grocery bag during his recovery period.”
Haggis claims Breest’s threats to file such a claim caused him severe anxiety and he’s suing for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Breest formerly worked for High10 Media, which represents The Hollywood Reporter.
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