- Paul Haggis denied Haleigh Breest’s rape accusation on the stand in New York City on Thursday.
- The Oscar-winning filmmaker said Breest initiated oral sex, which she alleges was not consensual.
- He admitted, however, that Breest expressed hesitation multiple times that night.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis denied raping a publicist at his Manhattan apartment in 2013, saying they had consensual oral sex and that he had no memory of penetrating her during a night of “mixed signals” he interpreted as playfulness.
Testifying in his own defense in a civil trial in New York Supreme Court on Thursday, the “Crash” writer and director gave a very different account of his night with Haleigh Breest than her version of events, which is the basis for her sexual-assault lawsuit against him for unspecified damages.
Breest is accusing him of assault, battery, rape, a criminal sexual act, aggravated sexual abuse, and violating New York City law on gender-motivated violence.
She seemed to have a difficult time during Haggis’ testimony and was seen rushing out of the courtroom during the mid-morning break. Meanwhile, during the same break, Haggis cheerfully chatted with one of his daughters about a Trump Org hearing taking place across the hallway.
Haggis had two full rows of supporters in the courtroom to hear him testify Thursday, his second day on the stand, including his ex-wife and four children.
During her own testimony, Breest alleged that she felt pressured to come to Haggis’ apartment for a nightcap after a film event, where she says he forcibly kissed her and “jammed” his penis into her mouth before raping her vaginally. Four other women testified with similar allegations of sexual misconduct involving Haggis.
Haggis has maintained that the encounter with Breest was consensual and his lawyers have tried to convince the jury that the Church of Scientology — of which Haggis is one of the most famous defectors — is behind her claim.
Haggis was borderline wistful on the stand as he recalled what he described as a flirtatious lead up to the night in question.
While he agreed that he was the first to kiss Breest at his apartment, he says by the third kiss Breest was initiating the make-out session.
But he admitted that Breest expressed hesitation when they started to kiss, saying “No, I shouldn’t,” multiple times. But he said he didn’t think she was telling him to stop, due to her “playful” tone and her “teasing kind of smile.”
“I was getting such mixed signals,” Haggis said. “She’d say this thing and then she’d kiss me passionately.”
“She seemed conflicted in some way. Not like she was truly conflicted but like she should be conflicted or something,” he said.
At one point, Haggis said he offered to put Breest in a cab but tshe demurred and asked for a tour of the apartment instead.
That tour ended in the guest bedroom, where he said he proceeded to kiss her again.
Haggis said they made their way to the bed, where she initiated oral sex, taking breaks to seek his approval.
He switched bedrooms so as not to disturb her when he came back from the bathroom in the middle of the night, he said, and found she had left when he awoke the next morning.
While he got the impression from his communications with Breest after that night that she was interested in seeing him again, he said, her mixed signals made him think “maybe this wasn’t a good idea to pursue this.”