A civil court jury in New York on Thursday sentenced Oscar-winning Canadian screenwriter and filmmaker Paul Haggis to pay at least $7.5 million in damages to a woman who accused him of raping her in 2013 .
Publicist Haleigh Breest, 36, claims the incident took place some time after she met Haggis while working at film premieres.
According to Breest, Haggis, 69, offered to drive her home from a screening party and invited her for drinks at his apartment. She says Haggis then began unwanted sexual advances, forced her to perform oral sex and eventually raped her. She sued Haggis in 2017.
The director claims the kissing and oral sex was consensual, but said he can’t remember if they had sex, according to The Guardian.
The jury sided with Breest after a day of deliberation. Four other women testified that they had suffered unwelcome advances from Haggis, with one alleging that he had raped her. None of the four has taken legal action against the director.
Several women, including Haggis’ ex-wife, testified in his defense, saying he reacted calmly when pushed away by women.
Breest said she was “very grateful” for the verdict, thanking the jurors for choosing to “follow the facts” and believe her.
Haggis, meanwhile, said he was “Very disappointed with the results.” He added: “I will continue, with my team, to fight to clear my name.”
Haggis wrote the screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s sports drama “Million Dollar Baby,” which won four Oscars in 2004, including Best Picture and Best Director for Eastwood. Haggis also co-wrote and directed the detective film “Crash,” which won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay in 2005.
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