Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis wants a jury to hear evidence he claims will prove the Church of Scientology is behind the rape lawsuit he faces at trial next month.
Haggis — who wrote and directed the 2006 Academy Award-winning movie “Crash” — was sued by publicist Haleigh Breest for allegedly raping her during a one-night stand on Jan. 31, 2013. The case is slated for trial on Oct. 11.
The 69-year-old filmmaker — who left Scientology in 2009 after 30 years — says the church has a “vendetta” against him for speaking out against it. He claims it tried to dig up dirt on him and even persuaded women to falsely accuse him of sexual misconduct, according to papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court this week.
“The prosecution of her lawsuit is part of the Church’s vendetta against Haggis for breaking with it years ago,” the court papers claim.
Haggis wants the jury to hear about his claims that Breest tried and failed to extort him for $9 million before filing her suit. He alleges the church’s supposed campaign against him suddenly stopped after Breest sued him.
His defense attorneys are also requesting to present evidence that Haggis reported Breest’s alleged extortion to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and they want to tell jurors that she never made a criminal complaint against their client. The DA’s office has not brought charges against either of them.
Breest “knows full well that if the jury is provided all necessary background information — including Haggis’ history with Scientology, Breest’s attempt to extort money from Haggis, and the fact that Haggis reported Breest to the New York County District Attorney’s Office for extortion — the jury will find that Haggis did not sexually assault Breest,” the court papers claim.
Haggis claims the testimony would provide an answer to why his accuser would allegedly have made up the story.
Meanwhile, Breest calls Haggis’ planned defense a “conspiracy theory” that is simply meant to “distract” from the core question in the case of whether he raped her.
“Haggis should not be allowed to distract and prejudice the jury with a Scientology conspiracy theory lacking any evidentiary support, tales of woe about his lack of money, privileged settlement discussions, or his meritless case against Ms. Breest long ago dismissed and then abandoned,” her lawyers wrote in court papers from last week.
Haggis also wants a judge to block Breest from bringing in testimony from four other women who have accused him of sexual assault, claiming it’s prejudicial to him.
Breest, who is in her mid-30s, argues that since the case is a he-said-she-said, it’s important that the jury knows of his alleged history of sexual abuse, showing her claims are plausible.
She also wants the jury to hear about Haggis’ recent arrest in Italy on accusations he raped a 30-year-old British woman twice. He’s since been released, with the local Italian court finding “numerous inconsistencies and contradictions” in the woman’s court testimony, according to reports.
Haggis’ lawyer Priya Chaudhry told The Post, “Everyone, especially Haleigh Breest, knows these things are true: Paul Haggis is a marked man by Scientology, Haleigh Breest demanded $9 million from him, and Paul Haggis is the only one to have gone to the District Attorney.
“Haleigh Breest does not want the jury to know this. The question is: Why not?”
A lawyer for Breest declined to comment.