Rape accuser testifies against filmmaker Paul Haggis

A woman who accused filmmaker Paul Haggis of raping her told a jury that she felt “like a trapped animal” during the 2013 encounter.

Aleigh Breest testified at the civil trial in her trial against the Oscar winner on Thursday.

She said she accepted his offer to drive home from a film premiere and then have a drink at his New York apartment, but made it clear to him that she had no sexual interest.

Mr Haggis claims the 2013 encounter was consensual and his lawyer has argued that Ms Breest called it rape because she was out for money.

Ms Breest told what she believed was a horrific, 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 something like that,” she said.

As she spoke without looking at him, Mr Haggis, 69, looked on largely blankly, sometimes rubbing his bearded chin or taking notes.

He may choose to testify later in the trial.

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Film director Paul Haggis leaves the courtroom in New York (Julia Nikhinson/AP)

Ms Breest, now 36, said she first met Mr Haggis – known for writing and directing Oscar-winning films Crash and Million Dollar Baby – at a premiere afterparty in 2012. She had a part-time job with an organization that coordinates such events.

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Ms Breest and Mr Haggis traded places in the months before their paths crossed at another premiere party on March 31.

After they interacted a bit during the event, a tipsy — but not stumbling — Ms. Breest accepted the filmmaker’s offer of a ride and then his invitation for a drink, she told jurors.

She said she tried to move the set to a public location, but he was pushing for his apartment in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, and she didn’t want to offend one of her employer’s red carpet guests.

“But just so you know,” she testified of telling him along the way, “I’m not sleeping in SoHo tonight.”

Ms Breest said Mr Haggis’ progress started as soon as she set down her bags in his loft’s open-plan kitchen.

“You’ve been flirting with me for months,” he soon said, according to Ms Breest.

“I don’t even know you,” said Mrs Breest, she replied.

Ms Breest said she was able to dodge and distract his attempts to kiss a little and thought she had managed to politely defuse the situation as he began a friendly tour of the flat.

But when they were looking at a guest room, Mr Haggis “got aggressive very quickly”, shoving her onto the bed and removing her tights and clothes when she tried to stop them, telling him to stop, she claimed.

Then, she claimed, he forced her to perform oral sex and wanted intercourse. She said she asked to take a shower to subtly exit the room, but he followed her there.

Then, when she left the bathroom to get her clothes, she said he allegedly put his hands on her shoulders from behind, led her back to the guest room, and performed another series of unwanted sexual movements, culminating in a rape.

“I was like a trapped animal. I had nothing to do,” she said.

Ms Breest said she passed out soon after, woke up alone on the bed the next morning and left without seeing Mr Haggis again.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Ms Breest did.

https://www.independent.ie/style/celebrity/celebrity-news/rape-accuser-testifies-against-filmmaker-paul-haggis-42083668.html Rape accuser testifies against filmmaker Paul Haggis

Fry Electronics Team

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