Oscar-Winning Director Paul Haggis Arrested in Italy For Sexual Assault

By - June 27, 2022
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Paul Haggis, an Oscar-winning director and producer was arrested in Italy this week for allegedly committing sexual assault and aggravated personal injury, according to Italian law enforcement.

The 69-year-old filmmaker, who won two Academy Awards for the film ‘Crash,’ was in Italy to go to a popular film festival in Ostuni, a tourist town in the southern part of the country.

Italian prosecutors in the next town Brindisi stated on Sunday that they issued an arrest warrant for Haggis, who was staying in Ostuni. They noted the director is suspected of aggravated sexual violence and aggravated personal injury involving a young woman.

His attorney in the US, Priya Chaudhry, told CNN earlier this week that she believed all the criminal charges against her client would be dropped. She added that her client is innocent and will completely cooperate with the Italian police.

His attorney in Italy, Michele Laforgia, noted that Haggis is staying in Ostuni at his home and is under detention as ordered by the Public Prosecutor of Brindisi. She said they are waiting for a hearing before the Judge for Preliminary Investigations to give their version of events.

Alleged Victim Is British And Will Press Charges

According to Variety Magazine, the alleged victim is British and is believed to be in her 30s or 40s. She and the director met in April at another film festival, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

Haggis was on the jury of the Monte Carlo Comedy Film Festival, which was from April 25 to 30. After the pair had their first encounter, Haggis and the woman communicated by text and Instagram, according to the newspaper. The tabloid also reported that the victim traveled by plane on June 12 to Ostuni.

During the next two days, the woman alleges that she and Haggis stayed in the same hotel room. He allegedly forced her to have sex with him. Italian prosecutors also say she had to get medical care for injuries that would appear to have been caused by sexual assault.

After she was allegedly assaulted, she was taken to the airport by Haggis at dawn and left there, even though she was roughed up physically and psychologically.

Airport staff saw the woman crouched in a corner of the airport and she looked confused and upset. They took her to the police station in Brindisi to make a report. From there, police took her to a local hospital for psychological counseling and a physical examination. The result of that examination caused the woman to press criminal charges.

Per Italian law, after arguments are presented from the prosecution and defense during the inital hearing, the judge can decide to set Haggis free while there is more investigation; or, he can be put in jail or held under house arrest at his hotel.

The next step in the Italian legal process is the pre-trial hearing, which will probably be next week. This will probably entail a cross-examination between the victim and Haggis. She is still thought to be in Italy. Their attorneys also will be there to conduct the hearing. The judge then must decide if the case should go to trial.

Haggis Claimed In Court The Sex Was Consensual

His Italian attorney stated in court that the relations he had with the alleged victim were consensual. He denied there were signs of violence or injury in a health report that was made at the hospital where she was taken. However, the medical examination showed conclusively that she was mentally and physically abused. It’s unclear how else that could have happened if she wasn’t sexually assaulted.

Airline workers who found the woman in the corner of the small airport said she appeared ‘shattered.’ Local TV said that the woman is a 30-year-old British woman who Haggis has known for a while before coming to the festival.

Haggis Spends A Lot Of Time In Italy

The director and screenwriter spends a lot of time in Italy. He was in Ostuni to participate in a series of master classes; other participants included Marisa Tomei, Jeremy Irons, Oliver Stone, and Matt Dillon. This was at the Allora Fest, which is a new movie event based in Ostuni that Haggis helped to launch.

Allora Fest organizers removed Haggis from their event and expressed solidarity with the alleged victim. The event runs from June 21-26, now without Haggis, but all the other guests that were scheduled are appearing. Irons told the media that he was horrified to hear about Haggis and hoped that the details would be clarified soon.

Haggis wrote Million Dollar Baby and co-wrote and directed Crash. Both films won Oscars. In 2018, he was sued by publicist Haleigh Breest who said he had raped her after a film premiere in 2014. She sued him for $9 million but Haggis filed a countersuit against her.

The lawsuit brought three more women out who also had sexual misconduct allegations involving Haggis.

His former wife has taken Haggis’s side in the past regarding the sexual assault allegations. She told Deadline.com in 2018 that she supports women and men who come out to accuse sexual predators in the movie business. However, she said that her husband is being unfairly maligned.

Ex-wife Deborah Rennard was married to the director for 12 years beginning in 1997 and she continues to work with him on various movie projects.

Attorney Geoffrey G. Nathan

About Geoffrey Nathan, Esq

Geoffrey Nathan is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1988, admitted to practice in both Federal and State courts. He is a Boston criminal defense attorney with over 25 years of experience in felony, federal, and white-collar crimes. Board of Bar Overseers Number #552110