Leah Remini alleges during rape-trial testimony that Scientology targeted Paul Haggis
Actor Leah Remini testified Monday as a character witness in the New York civil trial where writer-director Paul Haggis is accused of raping publicist Haleigh Breest, suggesting the Oscar-winning director has been targeted over the years by the church he left in 2009.
Breest, 36, alleges that 69-year-old Haggis — who took the stand last week in his own defense — had sex with her without her consent in 2013 after the two met at a film festival and went back to his apartment for a drink. Haggis says the encounter was consensual.
“Men and women who have been raped absolutely deserve justice, but in this case, it’s absolutely Paul who is the victim here,” Remini said in a video call from her L.A. home, Variety reported, though no evidence has been presented at trial that would link Scientology to Breest’s allegations. The “Scientology and the Aftermath” host left the church in 2013 after 40 years of membership. She has been a vocal critic of it since.
“Scientology was heavy on the attack of Paul” since the 35-year member left the church, Remini said. “And since this case, they have gone silent.”
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’ defense has suggested the civil suit is payback for his public criticism of the Church of Scientology, while Breest’s legal team has dismissed that as a bogus conspiracy theory.
The church also rejected Remini’s testimony, saying in a statement Monday that it has “nothing to do with” the allegations against Haggis and no relationship with Breest, her attorneys or the three Jane Does who in 2018 accused the writer-director of sexual misconduct. “Outrageously, Remini accuses four women she does not know, who have no connection to Scientology whatsoever, of committing perjury,” the statement said.
During three days on the stand last week, the writer-director said Breest flirted with him at the film event where she was working the red carpet and willingly went to his place, where he made a pass within minutes. Then she “seemed conflicted in some way” when the two initially were kissing, he said, but he said he thought she was being “playful” when she told him up front that she wasn’t going to spend the night with him.
The publicist “never gave me any indication it was anything other than consensual,” Haggis said, according to Variety.
Breest ultimately began taking initiative in their encounter, Haggis testified, allegedly moving him into a position to receive oral sex and telling him, “I’m good at this.” He said he had no memory of whether he had intercourse with her but was disappointed the next morning that she hadn’t left him a note with her phone number on it.
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.
Haggis testified Wednesday and Thursday and underwent cross-examination Thursday and Friday. During redirect questioning from his attorney, Priya Chaudhry, Haggis called himself “a very flawed human being” but said that he never sexually assaulted anyone.
The writer-director admitted on the stand that he had at least 20 affairs while married for two decades to Deborah Rennard, who testified on his behalf Wednesday. She said her ex had “great relationships with women,” Variety reported, and that their 2016 divorce was incredibly amicable.
Plaintiff Breest testified earlier in the trial that she didn’t reciprocate Haggis’ first two attempts to kiss her but didn’t leave because she didn’t want to offend a frequent premiere guest. She said he later pushed her onto a bed, pulled off her clothes, demanded oral sex and then raped her after she took a shower.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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