Lawyer decries ‘outrageous’ suggestion Scientology is paying for his client’s rape lawsuit against Paul Haggis

Paul Haggis

Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis is seen outside the New York Supreme Court.Julia Nikhinson/AP

  • Haleigh Breest is suing Paul Haggis for raping her in his apartment in 2013.

  • Haggis’ lawyer told the court Thursday that Breest was lying and that Scientologists could be behind her allegation.

  • Breest’s attorney said Haggis’ attorneys suggested that his company be paid by the Scientologists.

A lawyer representing Paul Haggis’ rape accuser complained in court Thursday about the “outrageous” suggestion that his practice was paid for by the Church of Scientology.

Haggis, the Oscar-winning writer and director behind the films Crash and Million Dollar Baby, left the church in 2009 and told the New Yorker two years later that the church would likely frame him in a retaliatory scandal.

He is currently on trial in the New York Supreme Court in a civil case brought by Haleigh Breest, a publicist who alleges Haggis raped her in his Manhattan apartment in 2013. She is asking the jury to award her unspecified damages. Haggis claims the sex was consensual.

Ilann Maazel, whose company represents Breest, complained in court Thursday that Haggis’ attorneys, when questioning Breest’s therapists the day before, had suggested that his company was being paid by the Scientologists. Haggis’ attorneys, Priya Chaudhry and Seth Zuckerman, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the allegation.

“It was rude of them to suggest that,” Maazel said in court on Thursday. “We have not received any money from the Church of Scientology.”

“You’re besmirching my law firm — a preeminent civil rights firm in the city,” Maazel added.

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Haleigh Breest

Haleigh Breest (center) is pictured with her attorneys Zoe Salzman (left) and Ilann Maazel (right) in court in New York on October 17, 2022.Yuki Iwamura/AP

Maazel asked Judge Sabrina Kraus to refrain from any questioning that suggested his company was paid for by Scientologists. But in a pre-trial, Kraus allowed Haggis’ attorneys to argue that Scientologists were behind the allegation. She reiterated Thursday that Haggis’ attorneys would be allowed to further investigate this theory during the trial.

“I won’t stop you from asking about it,” she said.

In opening remarks, Zoe Salzman, one of Breest’s attorneys, said Haggis had already admitted he had no evidence the Church of Scientology was involved.

But Chaudhry pointed out that Haggis doesn’t have the burden of proof because he didn’t file the lawsuit.

Despite this, Chaudhry said circumstantial evidence that Scientologists are involved will be “strong”.

“The Church of Scientology is very successful at destroying its enemies without leaving a single fingerprint,” Chaudhry said.

Salzman also asked if Breest had ever been a member of the Church of Scientology, had a family member who had ever attended a Scientology event, or even been inside one of the Church’s buildings.

Breest always answered “no” and also said Scientologists never encouraged her to come forward or offered her any assistance.

In court on Friday, Salzman tried to finally settle the Scientology issue.

She had Breest point out at the booth that the company she represents, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, hasn’t even been paid for her work. They were hired on a ‘contingency fee’, meaning they only get paid if they win the case and then receive a cut in damages.

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Karin Pouw, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology, told Insider on Friday that “the Church has nothing to do with the allegations against haggis, nor has it anything to do with his accusers.”

“I repeat, the Church has nothing to do with either the Haggis accusers or their attorneys. The church was never involved in any way, financially or otherwise,” Pouw added.

“Haggis, a scammer, continues to sell his written story to anyone who wants to buy it.”

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