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Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Paul Haggis Arrested In Italy For Sexual Assault

Oscar-winning writer and director Paul Haggis was arrested Sunday after authorities accused him of having “non-consensual relations” with a woman over two days and then dropping her off at an Italian airport in a confused state.

By Jill Sederstrom
Paul Haggis attends the production dinner of the movie “Lamborghini - The Legend”

Oscar-winning writer and director Paul Haggis has been arrested in Italy on charges of aggravated sexual violence and aggravated personal injuries after a woman alleged the 69-year-old sexually assaulted her over several days.

Haggis, who is currently under house arrest in Italy, was arrested Sunday in the Italian city of Ostuni, according to The New York Times.

Haggis is accused of having “non-consensual relations” with a woman over two days, according to a statement from the office of prosecutors Antonio Negro and Livia Orlando obtained by the news outlet and the CBC.

According to the account provided by prosecutors — who refer to Haggis as a Canadian with the initials “P.H.” — after the alleged assault, Haggis brought the woman to the Brindisi airport “despite [her] precarious physical and psychological conditions” and left her there on Friday around dawn.

The airport employees and border police noticed the woman in a confused state and intervened.

“She was acting strange, very out of it. But so far we found no trace of drugs,” Brindisi State Police Insp. Vincenzo Leo told the CBC News. “She wasn’t crying, but psychologically stressed.”

Prosecutors said the woman was taken to a local police station and then to a hospital, where she underwent a protocol in Italy used for victims of sexual assault. She was discharged on Sunday night.

The victim was described as a “young woman” who was not Italian.

Leo confirmed to The New York Times that Haggis was considered the suspect in the case.

His U.S. attorney, Priya Chaudhry, said in a statement to Oxygen.com that Haggis was “totally innocent” of the allegations against him.

“Under Italian law, I cannot discuss the evidence,” she said. “That said, I am confident that all allegations will be dismissed against Mr. Haggis. He is totally innocent, and willing to fully cooperate with the authorities so the truth comes out quickly.”

Haggis had been in Italy to participate in Allora Fest, a film festival also expected to be attended by Oliver Stone, Marisa Tomei, Edward Norton and Matt Dillon.

In a statement to Variety, organizers said they “immediately proceeded to remove any participation of the director from the event” once the allegations surfaced.

“At the same time, they express full solidarity with the woman involved,” the statement continued.

Haggis won an Oscar in 2006 for co-writing the original screenplay for “Crash,” which he also directed. The film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture that year.

In 2018, publicist Haleigh Breest accused the director of raping her after a 2013 movie premiere and sued him. The trial was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and remains pending.

After Breest came forward with her allegations, another three women also accused Haggis of sexual misconduct.

Haggis’ attorney Christine Lepera denied the women’s accusations to The Associated Press in 2018.

“He didn’t rape anybody,” she said at the time.

Italian police told the CBC that Haggis will remain under house arrest until a judge determines the next steps. The judge can decide whether to extend the house arrest, institute other measures (like sending him to jail) or set him free.

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