Crash Director Paul Haggis Arrested in Italy for Alleged Sexual Assault

Two-time Oscar winner Paul Haggis was detained on suspicion of sexual assault in Italy ahead of his scheduled appearance at Allora Fest.

By Ashley Joy Parker Jun 19, 2022 11:01 PMTags
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Paul Haggis is facing new allegations of sexual assault.

On June 19, the Oscar-winning Crash director was detained in the southern Italian town of Ostuni on charges of sexual assault and aggravated personal injury, according to multiple outlets, including Variety and Italian newspaper Corriere de la Sera.

"Under Italian Law, I cannot discuss the evidence," Haggis' longtime personal attorney Priya Chaudhry said in a statement to E! News. "That said, I am confident that all allegations will be dismissed against Mr. Haggis. He is totally innocent and willing to fully cooperate with the authorities so the truth comes out quickly."

Corriere della Sera reported that public prosecutor of the Brindisi province gave a statement that Haggis, 69, allegedly forced a young "foreign" woman to have sex over the course of two days in Ostuni, then accompanied her to an airport and left her there at dawn. Airport staff and police administered first aid to the alleged victim and transported her to a hospital, where Italy's "pink protocol" for rape victims was carried out, according to the statement. She subsequently filed formal charges against Haggis.

Hollywood's Many Men Accused of Sexual Misconduct

E! News has reached out to Haggis' reps for comment.

The Canadian director and screenwriter was in Ostumi to hold a series of master classes at Allora Fest, set to run from June 21 to June 26. Per Variety, event organizers said in a statement they have "learned with dismay and shock the news that Paul Haggis is in custody for alleged violence" and "immediately proceeded to remove any participation of the director from the event."

Ben Gabbe/FilmMagic

This is not the first time Haggis has faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

In 2017, publicist Haleigh Breest filed a civil lawsuit against the two-time Oscar winner, claiming he raped her in 2013 in a New York City apartment after a film premiere. He counter-sued, denying the allegations and accusing her of extortion, saying she had demanded a $9 million settlement. Breest's lawyer has called his claims "ludicrous."

In court documents obtained by E! News, Haggis claimed that any and all sexual interactions between him and Breest were consensual. In Haggis' response to Breest's lawsuit, he denied forcing her to give him oral without her consent. In addition to Haggis' claims, dozens of women were quoted in the documents offering "statements of support" that paint the director in a positive and professional light.

Breest's case remains pending while Haggis counter-suit was disposed in 2017, according to New York Supreme Court records obtained by E! News. 

Breest's filing inspired three more women to go public, anonymously, with their own claims of sexual assault and harassment by Haggis, saying their encounters with him took place between 1996 and 2015, according to multiple outlets. However, they have not filed any legal action against the filmmaker, who, in a statement to Reuters through his lawyer, denied "these anonymous claims."

Steve Granitz/WireImage

Before facing any accusations himself, Haggis—who years ago made headlines for speaking out against Scientology after leaving the religion—previously commented on disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein and the widespread sexual misconduct allegations in Hollywood. 

"Although everyone thinks it is vile behavior, you have got to focus on those who may have colluded and protected him," Haggis told The Guardian in October 2017."For me, they are as guilty as he is and in some cases more so, if I can say that. I mean, he was a predator and a predator is a predator. But what about those who would rather look the other way?"

He also said that while he does not think sexual harassment and abuse are endemic in Hollywood, he admitted it is a "fairly sexist" town, adding, "It is not an innocent place and never has been." 

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