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Paul Haggis gets a win in Italy as judge nixes investigation of assault allegations

A man in glasses looks straight ahead and grins with his chin resting on folded hands
Paul Haggis, photographed in 2014, is no longer being investigated for alleged sexual assault in Italy.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A judge in Lecce, Italy, ruled in favor of Paul Haggis late Friday, finding no reason to continue investigating a British woman’s allegations that the Canadian director sexually assaulted her in mid-June, according to a statement from Haggis’ Italian attorney.

Attorney Michele Laforgia said in the statement that he had “presented irrefutable and objective evidence that the woman told multiple lies to investigators and the court, with facts and witnesses completely contradicting her story.”

The decision of the Lecce court came after a judge in Brindisi, Italy, questioned Haggis’ accuser in early July and then overturned the director’s house arrest. The prosecutor had appealed the case to the higher court in Lecce.

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As writer-director Paul Haggis is ordered to stay under house arrest in Italy, where he’s accused of sexual assault, here’s a look at how he got here.

Haggis — who was in Italy for an arts festival in Ostuni, where he was scheduled to teach several master classes — was arrested June 19 and held at a hotel for 16 days before being released. The arrest came after a woman, reportedly 30 years old, sought help after Haggis dropped her off at a local airport. She alleged they had nonconsensual sex over the course of two days at a local bed-and-breakfast.

Throughout the ordeal, the 69-year-old “Crash” writer-director has maintained his innocence. The Times was unable to reach the woman or her legal team Monday for comment.

“[M]y first mistake was allowing someone who I hardly knew to come and visit me. It was foolish,” Haggis said in July in an interview with Italian news outlet La Repubblica, translated from Italian to English.

In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica, Paul Haggis asserts his innocence in his sex-abuse case and doesn’t rule out a connection to Scientology.

“The second mistake was on the last morning after an incident occurred that I personally found particularly unpleasant, I decided to end this situation; I took this person to the airport hours before her flight. I’m upset with myself for these errors in judgment but cannot comprehend that they resulted in false and damaging accusations against me.”

Haggis called the accusations “devastating.” He said he had recently gotten two jobs in the film industry after years of unemployment due to a civil lawsuit in the U.S. where a New York woman alleged he raped her. After his arrest in Italy, he lost both jobs, he told La Repubblica.

Paul Haggis will stand trial in October for assault allegations dating to 2013. The ‘Crash’ director was recently arrested in Italy on separate allegations.

“Four judges have now ruled in favor of Haggis,” attorney Laforgia said in his statement. “In the coming weeks, the reasons for the decision will be known and, therefore, so will the fate of the judicial proceedings pending in Italy.”

In a separate incident, Haggis and accuser Haleigh Breest, who alleges the director raped her at his apartment in 2013, recently got a court date in the New York civil lawsuit. That case will be heard starting Oct. 11.


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