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‘Crash’ writer, director Paul Haggis arrested in sexual assault case in Italy

A bald man in glasses and a black suit poses before a New York Film Festival banner.
Director Paul Haggis attends the world premiere of “Spielberg” in New York in 2017.
(Evan Agostini / Invision/Associated Press)

Oscar-winning writer and director Paul Haggis has been arrested in Italy on charges of sexual assault and aggravated personal injury.

According to Variety and Italian newspapers La Repubblica and Corriere della Serra, the filmmaker stands accused of sexually assaulting a young, non-Italian woman who has pressed charges. Representatives for Haggis did not immediately respond Sunday to The Times’ request for comment.

Haggis — best known for co-writing and directing the 2006 best-picture winner “Crash” — was arrested Sunday in the southern Italian city of Ostuni, where he is accused of sexually assaulting the woman over the course of two days while in town for an entertainment industry event, reported Variety, which cited Italian press coverage and a note from the public prosecutor of the nearby city of Brindisi.

Paul Haggis, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker behind “Crash,” has abandoned his lawsuit against the woman who accused him of raping her in his New York apartment in 2013.

The event, Allora Fest, was recently launched by Los Angeles-based Italian journalist Silvia Bizio and Spanish art critic Sol Costales Doulton. The event will proceed as planned this week save for Haggis’ involvement. Haggis was slated to teach several master classes.

In a statement provided Sunday to The Times, festival organizers confirmed they had learned “with dismay and shock the news that Paul Haggis is in custody for alleged violence.”

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“The art directors of Allora Fest have immediately taken steps to remove all involvement of the film director from the event,” the statement continued. “They also express their full solidarity and support to the woman involved. The themes chosen for the Festival are, among others, those of equality, gender equality and solidarity. As professionals and as women, the art directors are appalled and hope that the Festival will be a further opportunity to inform and raise awareness about such a present and dramatically increasing issue.”

According to an Italian police report obtained by Variety, Haggis brought the alleged victim to the Papola Casale airport in Brindisi and left her there early Sunday. The report noted that the woman was in a “precarious physical and psychological” state at the airport, where she was assisted by staff and border police who administered first aid.

Three additional women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Oscar-winning director and screenwriter Paul Haggis, in support of a woman who sued him last month alleging that she was raped.

After receiving emergency care, Haggis’ accuser was taken to the Italian squadra mobile police unit and Perrino hospital in Brindisi, where she was treated as a victim of rape.

Haggis was previously sued by publicist Haleigh Breest, who accused the “Million Dollar Baby” screenwriter of sexually assaulting her in his New York apartment in 2013. Three additional women later accused Haggis of sexual misconduct, but Haggis has denied the allegations.


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