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Paul Haggis became ‘agitated’ before alleged rape, accuser testifies in court

A one-time publicist described for a Manhattan jury Thursday how a “slobbering” Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis lured her to his Soho apartment for a drink — then allegedly raped her.

Haleigh Breest, who is suing Haggis over the alleged 2013 encounter, testified in Manhattan Supreme Court jury that the famed director became “agitated” when she urged him to go to a public bar instead of his Manhattan home.

“I didn’t want to go to his apartment,” Breest told the jury, saying Haggis continued to insist.

“He got agitated. ‘Come over for a drink. I just got off a flight and I’m really tired,” she said. “I felt pressured to say yes.

“I said, ‘Yes, but I’m not sleeping in Soho tonight,” she said. “I wanted to make it clear that I had no romantic interest in him.”

Asked if she was romantically interested in Haggis, she said, “No. He was older than my dad.”

Breest filed her civil lawsuit against the “Crash” director in 2017, claiming Haggis raped her on Jan. 31, 2013, when she was 26 and working as a publicist.

He had attended a movie premiere on the Upper West Side as a celebrity guest and offered her a ride home before taking her to his Mercer Street pad over her objections, her suit states.

Haggis, 69, has denied the allegations, and claims the encounter was consensual.

In court Thursday, Breest described getting to to the filmmaker’s apartment and finding there was no doorman and no one in the entryway. The two boarded an elevator to go to his penthouse, even as her cellphone was dead.

“I followed him into the kitchen and living area,” she recalled. “The apartment is a loft so it’s all one space. I put my bags down, he walked toward me with his mouth open trying to kiss me.”

She said Haggis “slobbered” as he pinned her against his refrigerator.

“I was totally startled. Our lips made contact and I said, ‘How about that wine?’

“I wanted to remind him why I was there, for a drink and wanted to let him know without offending him,” Breest said. “He was an important guest. He was a friend of my boss and I didn’t want to make an enemy.”

Paul Haggis arrives in court.
Director Paul Haggis arrives at Manhattan Supreme Court.

Breest, was working freelance as a publicist at the 2013 event when she met Haggis, who was an influential guest when the alleged attack happened.

During opening statements in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday Breest’s lawyer, Zoe Salzman, told the jury that the alleged attack left her client suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder — so severe she only attempted to have sex once since.

Salzman said Breest was unsuccessful because she had “flashbacks” from the alleged encounter with Haggis.

She said she delayed filing her lawsuit because she feared Haggis’ influence.

“He’s talented, he’s powerful and he’s also manipulative,” Salzman told jurors Wednesday.

Salzman said Breest was fired from the freelance job of nine years after she filed the suit.

The first witness at the trial was a publicist for a Canadian TV show who testified in a video shot in 2019 that Haggis raped her while they worked on the TV show “Due South.”

She claimed that the “Million Dollar Baby” screenwriter forced her to perform oral sex and raped her in 1996, and testified Haggis “was in attack mode.”

Paul Haggis accuser Haliegh Breest.
Paul Haggis accuser Haleigh Breest in Manhattan court during opening statements Wednesday.
Steven Hirsch

The woman, who asked not to be identified, is one of four Haggis accusers, with Breest the only one thus far to take her allegations to court.

Therapist Dr. Catherine Baker-Pitts, who said she treated Breest from 2017 through 2019, also testified, saying the accuser “lived in a state of constant stress.”

Haggis attorney Priya Chaundhry countered that the director’s encounter with Breest was consensual, and said she changed her story many times since the incident.

Chaundhry said Breest even texted a friend the following day and bragged about giving Haggis oral sex.

“Haleigh Breest will tell you that it was rape so that you will give her a lot of Paul Haggis’ money,” the lawyer said during opening statements.

Haggis, a former devotee of the Church of Scientology, has claimed that the claims against him were orchestrated by the church as payback after he denounced it in 2009.

His three daughters have been in court, with one due to testify on his behalf.

Director Paul Haggis arrives at Manhattan Supreme Court.
Director Paul Haggis enters Manhattan Supreme Court for his civil trial.

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