Paul Haggis took the witness stand today in his Manhattan trial for sexual assault, and the Oscar-winning Crash filmmaker and former Church of Scientology member’s first words when asked by his lawyer Priya Chaudhry how it felt to be testifying were: “I’m incredibly nervous, of course, and I’m very happy. Because for five years I’ve been unable to clear my name.”
Prosecution lawyer Ilann Maazel immediately objected, arguing that Haggis statement was irrelevant, but was overruled by Judge Sabrina Kraus.
The 11th day of testimony in the civil suit brought by Haleigh Breest began with Haggis’ ex-wife and fellow ex-Scientologist Deborah Rennard, who told the court he never was violent with her and never forced sex on her.
Paul Haggis Set To Take Stand Wednesday In His New York Sexual Assault Trial
“I know of no reputation with him regarding women,” Rennard testified. “He had great relationships with women. I never heard of anything negative.”
On cross-examination, Rennard said she didn’t know the substance of the allegations from Breest and the other accusers and didn’t know that he told some of these women intimate details about his married sex life. She said a letter she wrote in support of him after the lawsuit was not influenced by the $20,000 in monthly alimony support she was receiving from Haggis at the time.
The couple’s adult son James Haggis was in court today, watching along with the defendant’s three daughters from the earlier marriage.
Breest is seeking unspecified unspecified damages from a claim that he forced her into unprotected oral sex and intercourse in his apartment in Manhattan in 2013. Four other women called to testify by Breest’s team thus far said that Haggis assaulted or tried to assault them sexually in separate incidents between 1996 and 2015.
Breest was working as a freelance events publicist at the time of the alleged incident. She was 26, and Haggis was 59.
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.
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