Film-maker Paul Haggis arrested over sexual assault claims in Italy
Paul Haggis was previously accused of sexual misconduct by four women in the United States in 2018, including two rape allegations.
Local prosecutors revealed that authorities detained Oscar-winning film director Paul Haggis on Sunday in connection with claims that he sexually abused a lady in southern Italy.
The 69-year-old Canadian-born Haggis is in Italy for a film festival that begins on Tuesday in Ostuni, a vacation town in Puglia, the region that forms the Italian peninsula's "heel".
Priya Chaudhry, Haggis' attorney, made a statement pronouncing the director "absolutely innocent". “Under Italian law, I cannot discuss the evidence,” Chaudhry said. “That said, I am confident that all allegations will be dismissed against Mr. Haggis. He is innocent and willing to fully cooperate with the authorities so the truth comes out quickly.”
In a statement released by the film festival to Variety, organizers "heard with dismay and disbelief that Paul Haggis is in detention for suspected violence."
The festival's directors "quickly proceeded to remove the director's participation from the event" and "at the same time, they express full solidarity with the woman involved," according to their statement.
Who is Paul Haggis?
Haggis is a screenwriter, director, and producer. He received an Oscar for best original screenplay for Crash in 2006. He then penned screenplays for Million Dollar Baby, Quantum of Solace, and Casino Royale, and directed In the Valley of Elah and The Next Three Days.
He was a renowned Scientologist before leaving the organization and has written about his experience.
A written statement from prosecutors in the nearby city of Brindisi was carried out by the news agency LaPresse and several other Italian media outlets, stating that they were investigating allegations involving a "young foreign woman" who was forced to have "non-consensual" sexual relations over two days.
The investigation's prosecutors, Antonio Negro and Livia Orlando stated in a statement that the victim was "forced to seek medical care" following the sexual contact. Following a few days of "non-consensual relations," the woman was accompanied by the man to Brindisi airport on Sunday and "was left there at dawn despite (her) precarious physical and psychological conditions."
According to Italian reports, the Brindisi prosecutor's office was closed on Sunday. Haggis' attorney did not immediately reply to demands for comment from news organizations.
The prosecution revealed that airport employees and police noted her plainly "confused state" and carried her to Brindisi's police headquarters after providing first care. Officers from the station accompanied her to a nearby hospital for evaluation. It wasn't apparent whether Haggis was being kept at the police station, a hotel, or somewhere else.
According to Italian authorities, the victim "formalized her complaint and cited circumstances that were subsequently examined for confirmation by investigators." They made no mention of her country or age.
Not Haggis' first
Paul Haggis was previously accused of sexual misconduct by four women in the United States in 2018, including two rape allegations. In that case, which has yet to be heard in court, the director was originally sued by a publicist who claimed he raped her. Three more women have made similar allegations.
Haleigh Breest, a publicist, accused Haggis of "a shocking and egregious case of rape and sexual assault" in 2013. Haggis launched a countersuit, saying that the case was an "extortion" attempt to extract $9 million from him. The identities of the three additional accusers have not been published.
However, Haggis’s legal team denied any accusations, arguing that “he didn’t rape anybody”.