- Actress Leah Remini testified in defense of Paul Haggis at his civil rape trial on Monday.
- Remini suggested the lawsuit was a Scientology plot against Haggis for leaving the religion.
- She said she does not believe Haggis raped publicist Haleigh Breest at his Manhattan apartment.
Actress Leah Remini testified on Monday in the civil rape trial of fellow ex-Scientologist and filmmaker Paul Haggis, suggesting that the lawsuit against him is the church’s way of punishing him for becoming a vocal critic of the religion after leaving its ranks.
Remini said the Church of Scientology has threatened her with lawsuits, though no suit has ever actually been filed, and that the retaliatory lawsuits against defectors are meant to “exhaust” an enemy into silence.
“You would have to retain lawyers and that would cost a lot of money and the purpose of this is to have you financially ruined so that the last thing you would want to do is to get into a battle with Scientology.”
“The purpose of Scientology lawsuits is just to destroy your life,” Remini said.
Testifying via livestream at New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, Remini said that in the case of Haleigh Breest’s lawsuit against Haggis, she believes that “it is Paul who is the victim here.”
Haggis and Remini are perhaps two of the biggest defectors from Scientology, a religion founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, which counts Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its parishioners.
Remini said she felt testifying was “the right thing to do” because she believes Haggis is a “decent man and father and friend” and because she’s “an advocate for people who have been victimized by Scientology policies.”
Perhaps best known for her role on the long-running sitcom “The King of Queens,” Remini grew up in the religion and detailed how the church came after her when she left in 2013. Remini also wrote a book about leaving the religion, and hosted a Scientology documentary series.
Scientologists harassed her, stalked her, and used the confessions she made in Scientology counseling sessions to drum up controversy about her, she said.
She got emotional as she talked about how her own family members made attack videos about her.
“They do this because they know that it will get to you … My father and I had a hard relationship, I don’t think he knew exactly what he was doing when he did those videos for Scientology. They gather anything they can to hurt you and it does hurt,” Remini said.
“I’m still shocked by this behavior from a church to this day,” she added.
Remini, when asked about the four women besides Breest who testified about their similar allegations of sexual misconduct against Haggis during the trial, said two of the women had “Scientology names” but admitted on cross-examination that she has no knowledge connecting them to Scientology.
Breest has alleged that Haggis, the “Crash” writer and director, raped her at his Manhattan apartment in January 2013. Her lawsuit accuses Haggis of assault, battery, rape, a criminal sexual act, aggravated sexual abuse and violating New York City law on gender-motivated violence. She’s asking the jury to award her unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The defense rested after Remini’s testimony on Monday, and the judge told the jury she expects the case to wrap up by the end of the week.