He was a famous filmmaker. She was a publicist working on a movie premiere where he was a VIP guest. He offered to drive her home, then invited her to his apartment for a drink.
In her apartment, writer-director Paul Haggis abruptly attempted to kiss her, backed her into her fridge and asked her a question, accuser Haleigh Breest told a jury on Thursday.
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“Are you afraid of me? he asked, according to his testimony.
And so began, Breest said, a sexual assault that ended in the Oscar-winning actress being raped. She is suing him in a civil case that is now on trial.
Haggis maintains the 2013 encounter was consensual, and her attorney has argued that Breest called her rape because she was looking for money.
In a steady and unforgiving tone, Breest recounted what she said was a terrifying and painful attack that left her shocked and “really struggling to understand what had happened”.
“I couldn’t understand how someone who looked like a nice guy could do that,” she said.
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As she spoke without looking at him, Haggis, 69, watched largely expressionless, occasionally rubbing his bearded chin or taking notes. He can choose to testify later in the trial.
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Breest, now 36, said she first met the Haggis – known for writing the best Oscar winners Accidentwhich he also made, and Million dollar baby – in 2012 during a first afterparty. She had a side job with an organization that coordinates such events.
Breest and Haggis then exchanged occasional business emails and celebratory chats, she said, in the months before their paths crossed again on another first night out on Jan. 31, 2013.
After interacting a bit during the event, a tipsy — but not stumbling drunk — Breest accepted the filmmaker’s offer for a ride and then his invitation for a drink, she told jurors. She said she tried to move the executive to a public place, but he pushed for her apartment in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, and she didn’t want to offend any of her employer’s red carpet guests.
“But just so you know,” she testified she told him along the way, “I’m not sleeping in SoHo tonight.”
Still, Haggis’ advances began as soon as she packed up her loft’s open kitchen, Breest said.
“You’ve been flirting with me for months,” he soon said, according to her.
“I don’t even know you,” she replied.
Breest said she was able to dodge and deflect his attempts to kiss him for a bit, and said she managed to politely defuse the situation when he began a friendly tour of the apartment. But as they looked at a guest bedroom, Haggis ‘got aggressive really quickly’, pushed her onto the bed and pulled off her pantyhose and clothes as she tried to keep them on and told her to stop. stop, she said.
Then, she says, he forced her to perform oral sex and wanted to have sex. She said she asked to take a shower as a subtle way to get out of the room, but he followed her there.
Then, as she left the bathroom to try and get her clothes on, she said, he put his hands on her shoulders from behind, carried her back to the guest room and did a new set. of unwanted sexual movements that culminated in rape.
“I was like a trapped animal. I had nothing to do,” she said.
Breest said she passed out soon after, woke up alone on the bed the next morning, and left without seeing Haggis again.
The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Breest did.