Paul Haggis arrested for sexual assault in Italy

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Paul Haggis arrested for sexual assault in Italy

Oscar-winning director and author Paul Haggis was arrested in the southern Italian city of Ostuni on Sunday, according to local police, on charges of aggravated sexual violence and aggravated assault.

According to a statement from the prosecutor’s office in the nearby city of Brindisi, which ordered the arrest, the accuser was not Italian. The statement identifies the arrested man as PH, a Canadian; Vincenzo Leo, the duty officer with the local Italian police, confirmed that it was Mr. Haggis.

The statement said that after two days of “non-consensual sexual intercourse” he took the woman to Brindisi’s Papola Casale airport on Friday and left him there “at first light despite the woman’s precarious physical and psychological condition”. ”

Airport staff and border police noticed her in a “confused state” at the airport, helped her and took her to the local police station, it said. She was then taken to a hospital, where she was treated according to a protocol used in Italy for victims of violence against women; She then reported the violence to the police.

According to the allegations, Mr Haggis, 69, “forced the young woman he met some time ago to have sex.”

“I am confident that all allegations against Mr Haggis will be dismissed,” Priya Chaudhry, a lawyer for Mr Haggis, said in an email. “He is completely innocent and willing to cooperate fully with the authorities so that the truth is quickly brought to light.”

Mr. Haggis, who won a screenwriting Oscar for crime-drama Crash in 2006 and wrote acclaimed films like Million Dollar Baby, was in the southern city to attend the Allora Film Festival, where he was scheduled to take part in panels and discussions with the audience, from June 21, according to the festival program.

Mr Haggis was sued in New York in 2017 by a publicist, Haleigh Breest, for sexual assault. Ms Breest accused Mr Haggis of forcing her to give him oral sex before raping her after a premiere in 2013. Mr Haggis has claimed that the encounter with Ms Breest was consensual.

After the lawsuit, which is pending due to delays related to the coronavirus pandemic, three other women accused Mr Haggis of sexually assaulting them, according to The Associated Press.

A lawyer for Mr. Haggis, Christine Lepera, has denied the three other allegations, saying that “he did not rape anyone,” according to The AP’s report.

Mr. Haggis began as a television writer in the 1980s and helped create several series, including Walker, Texas Ranger, the long-running drama starring Chuck Norris. But he’s perhaps best known for his film work, particularly Crash, the 2005 ensemble drama he directed and co-wrote. The film won Best Picture at the Academy Awards as well as Best Original Screenplay for Mr. Haggis and Bobby Moresco.

In 2009, Mr. Haggis left the Church of Scientology because of its support of Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage, which was passed by California voters and later repealed. In a letter of resignation circulated in Hollywood, Mr. Haggis wrote that the church’s position was “a blemish on the integrity of our organization and a blemish on us personally.” In the documentary Going Clear and elsewhere, Mr. Haggis has become one of the church’s more prominent critics. And he has said the church launched a harassment campaign in response.

In a court filing last year, Mr. Haggis alleged that the pending sexual assault lawsuit in New York essentially frozen his career, leaving him unable to direct or produce.

“I have had discussions with producers and financiers, but have been told repeatedly that they cannot work with me until I clear my name,” he wrote in the filing, which was filed as part of a motion to set a trial date with the court became .

Stephanie Goodman contributed coverage.

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