3:58pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Paul Haggis, Rape Accuser Fight Over Her Morning-After Text Messages
Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis says he's on the outs in Hollywood thanks to a publicist's rape claim. In court documents filed last week, the Crash director blames Haleigh Breest's 2017 lawsuit — and the subsequent media attention — for resulting in an entertainment community that will no longer work with him, thus depriving him of necessary income to defend himself in court. Due to dwindling financial resources, he's now had to switch attorneys. Haggis also has a game plan to turn around his situation.
In a rather unusual request, Haggis, 66, is now asking a New York judge to allow him to publicly air evidence that's currently deemed "confidential."
The evidence, procured through the discovery process and under seal, is a series of text messages between Breest and her close friends on the morning after the alleged incident back in 2013. Haggis believes these messages will counter the harm inflicted upon his reputation and provide contemporaneous evidence of what he claims was a consensual affair.
Breest's lawyers disagree.
In court papers opposing the lifting of confidentiality, Breest's team contends that the texts show the reverse — that they are consistent with someone who has been victimized by a violent sexual assault.
In the texts, which are described in court papers (Breest's attorneys attempted to redact them but failed to properly do so), Breest writes about getting a ride home from Haggis after the 2013 premiere of the Steven Soderbergh movie Side Effects. She discusses in graphic terms the physical impact of the encounter, and a friend characterizes it as "borderline rape." (The Hollywood Reporter has not included the details of the discussion.) They also discuss allegations that other prominent Hollywood figures, including Harvey Weinstein, also raped women. (Notably, the exchange occurred long before Weinstein's misdeeds became widely public and before the #MeToo movement.)
The two sides dispute the meaning of the texts. Haggis' lawyers apparently see them as evidence she wished to reprise the relationship, while Breest's lawyers focus on how she expressed her desire to no longer be a victim. Haggis' camp sees her texts to be both boastful and jovial, while Breest's lawyers see any minimization of what happened to be a coping mechanism. "Social science research demonstrates that this impulse is common among rape victims, who frequently seek to 'reframe' the experience in order to regain a sense of control," state her attorneys at the Emery Celli firm.
Haggis' request to make these texts non-confidential is itself out of the ordinary. The filmmaker is now being represented by Priya Chaudhry after splitting with Christine Lepera (the same attorney representing Dr. Luke in a somewhat similar legal fight with Kesha). Chaudhry, in one of her first filings in the case, complains that "Breest's lawyers, and the powerful interests aligned with them, have spread this [rape] fiction in their court papers and in countless articles in the press."
As Haggis' new attorney sees it, the publicist alleging rape has taken advantage of the media's interest in the case to publicly prosecute her claim. Haggis deserves the same favor, argues Chaudhry.
"Confidentiality cannot be used as both a sword and a shield," writes Haggis' attorney. "[Breest] has repeatedly, openly, notoriously, and intentionally 'opened the door' to the public disclosure."
Throughout the litigation, Haggis' side has insinuated that he's being targeted because of his prominent role as a leading Scientology defector and critic. In fact, according to Breest's latest court papers, his lawyers behind the scenes have sought "maximum publicity" for the Scientology narrative.
Under oath, Breest has denied she's receiving funding from those connected with the Church of Scientology. Breest also points to a court document that Haggis has designated as confidential.
As her lawyers tell the judge, "In an email to friends and colleagues, Haggis wrote of his Scientology conspiracy theory: 'Who the fuck knows if it is the case?' This is one of many damning admissions that Haggis designated confidential in this case and seeks to keep sealed so that he can continue to lie to the press and the public. This blunt statement says it all."
In a statement, Haggis attorney Chaudhry says: "Breest's attorneys have tried to hide these texts from public view. … We will continue to fight to have the complete exchange of text messages between Breest and her friends be made public."
Aug. 12, 6:40 p.m. Updated to delete two specific quotes from the accuser's text messages and add a statement from Haggis' attorney.
Editor's note: Breest once worked for a public relations firm that handles PR for The Hollywood Reporter. She has no current connection to that firm.