Paul Haggis’ Lawyers Grill Rape Accuser on ‘Flirtatious Emails’

Daniele Venturelli

Daniele Venturelli

Director Paul Haggis’ legal team tried to discredit an ex-publicist who accused the Canadian filmmaker of raping her in 2013, arguing in court on Friday that she sent him flirtatious emails.

Haleigh Breest, who claimed Haggis forced oral sex on her and raped her in his SoHo loft after a film premiere in January 2013, took the witness stand for the second straight day in a New York court this morning.

Haggis’ attorneys opened their cross-examination by questioning Haleigh Breest about her sex life and drinking habits and her propensity to use exclamation marks and the unsubscribe phrase “xx” in her emails.

Priya Chaudhry, Haggis’ lead attorney, began her direct investigation by questioning Breest about her first sexual encounter with a man who was staying at her hostel in Iceland in 2011.

At one point, Chaudhry asked Breest what her definition of flirting was — before asking if she only flirts with men she has a romantic interest with.

“I think I’ve probably flirted with people who may not have been romantically interested on occasion,” Breest told the court on Friday.

Breest has said she has no sexual feelings about haggis since her statement on Wednesday.

Breest said she may have been “a little bit drunk” the night she claims the 69-year-old was dead million dollar baby The author raped her after an afterparty for the premiere of the 2013 thriller side effectsan event she had been working on.

She admitted Haggis was unaware of her alleged poisoning, but insisted she wasn’t drunk. Breest testified that she met Haggis while working as a publicist, where she photographed and produced Hollywood A-lister events that the screenwriter attended.

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<p>Paul Haggis, Oscar winner for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for Crash.</p>
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<div class="inline-image_credit">Toni Anne Barson Archive</div>
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Paul Haggis, Oscar winner for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for Crash.

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Paul Haggis, Oscar winner for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for Crash.

Toni Anne Barson Archive

Months before the alleged incident, Breest emailed Haggis and told him “we miss seeing you,” referring to the events she coordinated while employed as a publicist at New York’s Cinema Society. She asked him how long he was in Italy and how the ongoing projects were going.

“That’s just saying hello?” Chaudhry questioned her in court.

Breest responded, explaining the correspondence was routine and purely professional “touchpoint email.”

In the email thread, of which screenshots were shared with the judges, Haggis replied and told her he would be returning to New York in December.

“Great to hear! I look forward to seeing you over the holidays, the perfect time to return to New York!” Breest wrote in response. “Good luck shooting!!”

On Thursday, Breest testified that Haggis looked “like the devil” when he forced himself on her before the alleged sexual assault at the filmmaker’s SoHo loft. Her account and testimony of the alleged rape was detailed and at times particularly graphic. She was 26 then.

“He started putting himself in my mouth,” Breest testified, referring to the moment Haggis allegedly forced oral sex on her. “He spread my face and he did it non-stop. I choked.”

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<p>Film director Paul Haggis (C) arrives for his trial at the New York Supreme Court.</p>
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<div class="inline-image__credit">ANGELA WHITE</div>
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Film director Paul Haggis (C) arrives for his trial at the New York Supreme Court.

ANGELA WHITE

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Film director Paul Haggis (C) arrives for his trial at the New York Supreme Court.

ANGELA WHITE

Breest, who called the court proceedings “retraumatizing” and “invasive,” told the court how she developed body image issues, suffered recurring flashbacks of her alleged rape, and felt unable to be alone with men without becoming nervous become in the years since their encounter with haggis.

Breest, who filed her lawsuit against haggis in 2017 following the rise of the #MeToo movement, also told the jury how her career suffered after reporting the allegations. The 36-year-old lost her nearly 10-year job at the Cinema Society after her boss – and Haggis’ friend – Andrew Saffir – refused to hire her again.

“It was devastating,” she said Friday morning.

Breest is seeking unspecified damages in the civil complaint.

Haggis has long denied the allegations. He claims the sexual encounter with Breest was consensual. His legal team has repeatedly declined to speak to The Daily Beast before and during the trial.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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