Paul Haggis Arrested on Sexual Assault Charges in Italy

Haggis, who wrote and directed the Oscar-winning crime drama “Crash,” was accused of assaulting a woman in Ostuni over the course of two days.

The Oscar-winning director and writer Paul Haggis was arrested on charges of aggravated sexual violence and aggravated personal injuries in the Southern Italian city of Ostuni on Sunday, according to the local police.

According to a statement from the prosecutor’s office in the nearby city of Brindisi, which ordered the arrest, the accuser was not Italian. The statement identifies the man who was arrested as P.H., a Canadian; Vincenzo Leo, the duty officer of the local Italian police, confirmed it was Mr. Haggis.

The statement said that after two days of “nonconsensual intercourse,” he had brought the woman to the Papola Casale airport in Brindisi on Friday and left her there “at the first lights of dawn, despite the precarious physical and psychological conditions of the woman.”

The airport’s staff and the border police noticed her in the airport in a “confusional state,” assisted her and took her to the local police office, the statement continued. She was then brought to a hospital where she was treated following a protocol used in Italy for victims of violence against women; she subsequently reported the violence to the police.

According to the accusations, Mr. Haggis, 69, “would have forced the young woman, that he had met some time before, to endure sexual intercourse.”

“I am confident that all allegations will be dismissed against Mr. Haggis,” Priya Chaudhry, a lawyer for Mr. Haggis, said in an email. “He is totally innocent, and willing to fully cooperate with the authorities so the truth comes out quickly.”

Mr. Haggis, who won a screenwriting Oscar in 2006 for the crime drama “Crash,” and who wrote acclaimed movies such as “Million Dollar Baby,” was in the southern city to attend the Allora film festival, where he was set to participate in panels and discussions with the audience, starting on June 21, according to the festival’s program.

Mr. Haggis was sued for sexual assault in New York in 2017 by a publicist, Haleigh Breest. Ms. Breest accused Mr. Haggis of forcing her to give him oral sex before raping her after a premiere in 2013. Mr. Haggis has contended that the encounter with Ms. Breest was consensual.

Following the lawsuit, which is still pending because of delays related to the coronavirus pandemic, three other women accused Mr. Haggis of sexually assaulting them, according to The Associated Press.

A lawyer for Mr. Haggis, Christine Lepera, has denied the three other accusations, saying “he did not rape anybody,” according to The A.P.’s report.

Mr. Haggis got his start as a TV writer in the 1980s and went on to help create several series, including “Walker, Texas Ranger,” the long-running drama starring Chuck Norris. But he is perhaps best known for his film work, notably “Crash,” the 2005 ensemble drama he directed and co-wrote. The film won best picture at the Academy Awards as well as best original screenplay for Mr. Haggis and Bobby Moresco.

In 2009, Mr. Haggis left the Church of Scientology over its support of Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage passed by California voters and later overturned. In a resignation letter that was circulated in Hollywood, Mr. Haggis wrote that the church’s position was “a stain on the integrity of our organization and a stain on us personally.” In the documentary “Going Clear” and elsewhere, Mr. Haggis has become among the more prominent critics of the church. And he has said that, in response, the church has mounted a campaign of harassment.

In a court filing last year, Mr. Haggis asserted that the pending sexual assault lawsuit in New York had essentially frozen his career, leaving him unable to work as a director or producer.

“I have had discussions with producers and financiers, but have been repeatedly told that they cannot work with me until I clear my name,” he wrote in the filing, which was submitted as part of a motion requesting that the court set a trial date.

Stephanie Goodman contributed reporting.

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