Saturday, March 2, 2024
    HomeEntertainmentPaul Haggis Defense Wins Right to Call Former Scientologist Leah Remini to...

    Paul Haggis Defense Wins Right to Call Former Scientologist Leah Remini to Testify in His Rape Trial

    Former Scientologist Leah Remini is expected to testify on Monday at director Paul Haggis’ rape trial after a judge allowed his defense team to call her as a last-minute witness.

    The actress, podcast host, and author of Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, is expected to address the court on Monday via a live steam.

    “That’s what I’m expecting,” Haggis’ lawyer Seth Zuckerman told The Daily Beast. “I can’t make any promises. Nothing’s definite.”

    Shortly before 11 a.m. Friday, Judge Sabrina Kraus dismissed the jury to discuss the possibility of Remini testifying.

    Haggis, a former Scientologist, who publicly defected from the religion in 2009 after 35 years as a church member, has argued the controversial religion conjured the civil rape case against him as part of a coordinated vendetta to defame him over his whistleblowing efforts.

    In September, Kraus ruled Haggis could argue that the Church of Scientology had invented the sexual assault case.

    “Leah Remini would testify principally about two topics,” Haggis’ lawyer Priya Chaudhry told Kraus. “She is, if not number one and number two, enemies of Scientology and things they’ve done to her and the way that Scientology has done these things—her personal experience with the various tactics used to destroy her.”

    Actress Leah Remini signs copies of her new book Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology.

    Paul Archuleta

    Chaudhry also indicated Remini would serve as a character witness.

    “She was born into Scientology and also sort of born into Hollywood, and in both of those communities she is very familiar with Mr. Haggis’ reputation regarding any aggression or violence towards women,” Chaudhry explained.

    Breest’s counsel Zoe Salzman, however, interjected, echoing the judge’s concerns that Remini’s testimony could be repetitive.

    “I don’t think Ms. Remini’s personal experience is any more relevant to this case than Mr. Rinder’s, or Melissa Haggis’ or Mr. Haggis,” Salzman argued. “None of these witnesses are drawing any connection to Scientology and this case and therefore it is cumulative. We’ve heard over and over that this is a terrible organization that does terrible things.”

    Salzman blasted the defense team’s Scientology defense as “scandalous,” referring to the possibility Remini could testify as “duplicate testimony” at the “11th hour.”

    Kraus, however, sided with Haggis’ legal team, indicating she would allow Remini to testify.

    Ex-Scientology spokesperson and high-ranking executive Mike Rinder testified last week on Haggis’ behalf, telling a jury that Remini, Haggis, and himself were among Scientology’s top-three public enemies.

    Rinder and Remini, who hosted the A&E Emmy-winning series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, previously released a joint statement also accusing the Church of Scientology of manufacturing the case.

    “We expect the next ‘revelations’ about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information culled from his Scientology files in the form of more ‘anonymous’ accusers, hiding behind a lawyer who will never have to disclose who is paying their bill,” their earlier statement read.

    TV personality Mike Rinder (L) and actress Leah Remini (R) attend the Emmy Awards in 2018.

    Paul Archuleta

    Haggis was grilled for a second straight day Friday by defense lawyers representing a former publicist who accused the Crash director of raping her at his penthouse suite in 2013.

    Attorney Ilann Maazel opened his second day of cross-examination by tersely quizzing the Hollywood producer about the hours leading up to the alleged sexual assault of Haleigh Breest, a former publicist who accused him of raping her at his SoHo loft after a Manhattan film premiere afterparty in 2013.

    Minutes into cross-examination, Maazel showed a photo of actress Catherine Zeta-Jones hugging Haggis at the afterparty for the premiere of 2013 thriller Side Effects, hours before the alleged sexual assault occurred.

    “You didn’t think Catherine Zeta-Jones was romantically interested in you did you?” Maazel asked.

    “No,” Haggis replied.

    “She was just being friendly in your opinion?” Maazel responded.

    “We’re close friends,” Haggis said.

    The soirée in question had been attended by a number of A-list celebrities including Michael Douglas and Jude Law. Breest, who at the time worked as a publicist for Cinema Society, the organization hosting the event, which regularly catered red carpet events with a rotating cast of Hollywood fixtures, was 26 at the time.

    Paul Haggis referred to Catherine Zeta-Jones as a close friend in court.

    Craig Barritt

    Haggis testified he first saw Breest when arriving at the after-party where the pair shared a quick hug. Haggis said the pair had exchanged “flirtatious” work-related emails for a number of months prior.

    “We met and hugged but not at the door,” Haggis said.

    “And quickly after that, you went to speak with Jude Law?” Maazel asked.

    “Sometime three or four minutes after that, yes,” Haggis said.

    Maazel also sparred with Haggis over his sexual habits, whether he used lubricant, kept condoms in his apartment, his vasectomy, and his interpretation of consent — and particularly the meaning of the word ‘no.’

    “While you were trying to pull off Ms. Breest’s tights, Ms. Breest said the word ‘no,’ correct?:

    “Yes, she used the word,” Haggis stated.

    “She said ‘no’ two or three times, correct?” Maazel countered.

    “As a part of a sentence, yes,” Haggis testified.

    “According to you, she did not say ‘no’ in the way that one means ‘no,’ correct?” Maazel asked.

    “She did not say ‘no, stop’, that’s correct,” Haggis said.

    “‘No’ does not always mean ‘no’ to you, is that fair?” Maazel said sharply, to which Haggis’ attorney Priya Chaudhry promptly objected, before Judge Sabrina Kraus sustained.

    Haggis and Breest’s lawyer then clashed over whether the filmmaker had vaginally penetrated Breest with his penis, seizing on a 2019 deposition statement where the screenwriter said he had “no memory” of it, despite definitively denying on the stand Thursday he’d ever had sexual intercourse with her.

    “And you told Ms. Breest you had a vasectomy before you penetrated her vagina with your penis? Maazel asked him.

    “I can’t answer that ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Haggis answered. “I have no recollection of penetrating her with my penis. I might have.”

    “You don’t know whether or not you said to Ms. Breest, ‘you’re nice and tight’”?

    “I don’t think I ever said that,” Haggis replied.

    In court on Thursday, Haggis had testified that Breest appeared to look “bashful” and “cartoony” during the alleged tryst, comparing her demeanor to the cartoon Betty Boop and Roger Rabbit character Jessica Rabbit. At one point, Breest’s defense team displayed images of both cartoon characters for the jury, which is made up of six women and three men.

    “Are you aware Betty Boop is considered to be a sexist and degrading cartoon character?” Maazel asked as a black and white image of the animated character posed suggestively in a short black dress flashed across courtroom screens.

    Chaudhry objected to Maazel’s inquiry on foundation of hearsay, which Judge Sabrina Kraus sustained.

    A second, suggestive image of Jessica Rabbit in a red dress, red heels, and arm-length purple gloves with legs crossed was also displayed for jurors.

    Four other women have also come forward alleging Haggis raped or attempted to sexually assault them between 1996 and 2015. On Thursday, the Canadian screenwriter directly denied the allegations on the stand.

    “I don’t know why women—or anyone—would lie about things like this, make up or twist the truth,” Haggis said in court Thursday.

    Haggis again directly addressed accusations during his cross-examination Friday.

    Haggis’ family members, including his son, three daughters, and his ex-wife Dallas actress Deborah Rennard, as well as other supporters of the Million Dollar Baby writer, packed two courtroom gallery benches and stoically listened to the Canadian screenwriter’s third straight day of testimony.

    Paul Haggis and former wife, actress Deborah Rennard in 2010.

    Charles Eshelman

    Before court adjourned for the day, Haggis’ attorneys called the week’s final character witness, a California novelist who worked as Haggis’ assistant for 23 years, to take the stand.

    Gian Schwehr, 48, testified that the Quantum of Solace writer’s alleged behavior in the case was inconsistent with her longtime personal relationship with him and knowledge of his conduct. She testified that she’d never seen Haggis act violently or inappropriately towards women.

    “In this case, Ms. Breest claims that Mr. Haggis violently raped her,” Zuckerman asked Schwehr. “Is that consistent of your knowledge with Mr. Haggis?”

    “No,” Schwehr, who is still employed by Haggis, said.

    “Does that change your opinion of him?” Zuckerman asked her.

    “No,” she replied.

    “Why?” Zuckerman said.

    “That doesn’t match,” Schwehr added.

    Haggis declined to comment on his three days of testimony.

    Breest’s attorneys, however, characterized Haggis’ testimony in his defense as “damning.”

    “He’s one of the least credible witnesses I’ve seen in 25 years of practice,” Maazel told The Daily Beast outside court. “He seems to have no memory of the most important facts in the case.”

    “We almost didn’t need to cross-examine him,” Salzman added.

    Closing arguments are expected to get underway Wednesday. Lawyers for Breest and Haggis declined to comment outside court on Friday.

    After 13 days of trial proceedings, however, Haggis’ lawyers have struggled to directly connect the sexual assault allegations involving Breest to the “extreme” religion’s “dirty tricks.”

    Breest’s lawyers, meanwhile, have labeled Haggis’ Scientology defense as a smokescreen designed to distract jurors.

    “[It’s] pathetic, absurd, ridiculous, embarrassing,” Breest’s attorney Ilann Maazel told The Daily Beast outside court in October. “This entire Scientology idea is an effort to distract the jury from the actual case, the actual evidence. This is not a case about Scientology. This is a case about what Paul Haggis did to Haleigh Breest.”

    The Church of Scientology has also firmly refuted Haggis’ accusations involving the religious organization’s alleged ties to the sexual assault case—or having any association with any of the case’s victims. Karin Pouw, a Scientology spokesperson, instead accused Haggis of “penning false stories about the Church for a decade” to “cover up” his “bad deeds.”

    “The Church has nothing to do with the claims against Haggis nor does it have any relation to the attorneys behind the case of the accusers,” Karin Pouw, a Scientology spokesperson previously told The Daily Beast in a statement. “The Church has nothing to do with the claims against Haggis nor does it have any relation to his accusers.”



    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    - Advertisment -
    Google search engine

    Most Popular

    Recent Comments