Paul Haggis defense wins battle to call ex-Scientology actress Leah Remini

Paul Haggis defense wins battle to call ex-Scientology actress Leah Remini

Former Scientologist Leah Remini is set to testify in director Paul Haggis’ rape trial on Monday 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 expect,” Haggis’ attorney Seth Zuckerman told The Daily Beast. “I can’t promise anything. Nothing is final.

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 left the religion in 2009 after 35 years as a member of the church, has argued the controversial religion brought up the civil rape case against him as part of a coordinated vendetta to defame him for his whistleblowing efforts.

In September, Kraus ruled that Haggis could claim that the Church of Scientology made up the sexual assault case.

“Leah Remini was primarily testing on two topics,” Haggis’ attorney Priya Chaudhry told Kraus. “She is, if not number one and number two, enemies of Scientology and the things they did to her and how Scientology did those 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 that Remini would serve as a character witness.

“She was born into Scientology and also kind of born into Hollywood, and in both of those communities she knows very well Mr. Haggis’ reputation for any assault or violence against women,” Chaudhry explained.

Breest’s attorney Zoe Salzman, however, stepped in, 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 that of Mr. Rinder, Melissa Haggis, or Mr. Haggis,” Salzman said. “None of these witnesses make any connection to Scientology and this case and so it’s cumulative. We’ve heard time and time again that this is a terrible organization that does terrible things.

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

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

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

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

“We expect the next ‘revelations’ about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him will be based on information gleaned from his Scientology records in the form of more ‘anonymous’ accusers, hiding behind a lawyer who doesn’t ‘will ever have to reveal who pays their bill,’ read their previous statement.

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 on Friday by defense attorneys representing a former publicist who accused the Accident director of raping her in his penthouse suite in 2013.

Lawyer Ilann Maazel opened his second day of cross-examination by laconically questioning 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 in his SoHo loft after a Manhattan premiere afterparty. in 2013.

Minutes after the cross-examination, Maazel showed a photo of actress Catherine Zeta-Jones hugging Haggis at the afterparty for the 2013 thriller’s premiere Side effectshours before the alleged sexual assault.

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

“No,” answered Haggis.

“She was just friendly in your opinion?” mazel replied

“We’re close friends,” Haggis said.

The evening in question had been attended by a number of high-profile celebrities, including Michael Douglas and Jude Law. Breest, who at the time worked as a publicist for Cinema Society, the organization that organized the event, which regularly held red carpet events with a rotating cast of Hollywood luminaries, was 26 at the time.

Paul Haggis called Catherine Zeta-Jones a close friend in court.

Craig Barrit

Haggis testified he first saw Breest upon arriving at the after-party where the pair shared a quick hug. Haggis said the couple had exchanged “flirty” work-related emails for several months prior.

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

“And shortly after, you went to talk to Jude Law?” Mazel asked.

“Sometimes three or four minutes later, yes,” Haggis said.

Maazel also argued with Haggis about his sexual habits, whether he used lube, kept condoms in his apartment, his vasectomy and his interpretation of consent – and in particular the meaning of the word ‘no’.

“While you were trying to take Mrs. Breest’s pantyhose off, Mrs. Breest said the word ‘no’, correct?:

“Yeah, she used the word,” Haggis said.

“She said ‘no’ two or three times, didn’t she?” Maazel replied.

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

“According to you, she didn’t say ‘no’ as one means ‘no’, did she? Mazel asked.

“She didn’t say ‘no, stop’, that’s right,” Haggis said.

“‘No’ doesn’t always mean ‘no’ to you, is it right?” Maazel said curtly, which Haggis’ attorney Priya Chaudhry quickly objected to, before Judge Sabrina Kraus backed up.

Haggis and Breest’s attorney later argued over whether the filmmaker vaginally penetrated Breest with his penis, grabbing a 2019 deposition statement where the screenwriter said he had “no recollection” of it. , although he definitely denied on the stand Thursday that he had ever had sex with her.

“And you told Mrs. Breest that you had a vasectomy before you penetrated her vagina with your penis?” Mazel asked him.

“I can’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” Haggis replied. “I have no memory of penetrating her with my penis. I might have.”

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

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

In court on Thursday, Haggis testified that Breest seemed to look ‘shy’ and ‘caricatured’ during the alleged date, comparing his behavior to the cartoon Betty Boop and Roger Rabbit Jessica Rabbit character. At one point, Breest’s defense team presented images of the two cartoon characters to the jury, which consisted of six women and three men.

“Do you know that Betty Boop is considered a sexist and degrading cartoon character? Maazel asked as a black-and-white image of the animated character posing suggestively in a short black dress played on screens in the courtroom.

Chaudhry objected to Maazel’s investigation based on hearsay, which Judge Sabrina Kraus upheld.

A second suggestive image of Jessica Rabbit in a red dress, red heels and knee-length purple gloves with her 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 that, make up or twist the truth,” Haggis said in court Thursday.

Haggis again addressed the charges directly during his cross-examination on Friday.

Haggis’ family members, including his son, three daughters and ex-wife dallas actress Deborah Rennard, along with other supporters of the Million dollar baby screenwriter, filled two benches in the courtroom gallery and listened stoically to the Canadian screenwriter’s third consecutive day of testimony.

Paul Haggis and his ex-wife, actress Deborah Rennard in 2010.

Charles Eshelman

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

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

“In this case, Ms. Breest claims that Mr. Haggis violently raped her,” Zuckerman asked Schwehr. “Does this match what you know of Mr. Haggis?” »

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

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

“No,” she replied.

“Why?” says Zuckerman.

“It doesn’t fit,” Schwehr added.

Haggis declined to comment on his three days of testimony.

Breest’s lawyers, however, called Haggis’ testimony in his defense “damning”.

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

“We hardly needed to cross-examine him,” Salzman added.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin on Wednesday. Lawyers for Breest and Haggis declined to comment in court on Friday.

After 13 days of trial, however, Haggis’ lawyers have struggled to draw a direct link between the sexual assault allegations involving Breest and the “dirty tricks” of “extreme” religion.

Breest’s attorneys, meanwhile, called Haggis’ Scientology defense 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 whole idea of ​​Scientology is an effort to distract the jury from the real case, the real evidence. It’s not a Scientology case. It’s a case about what Paul Haggis did in Haleigh Breest .

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

“The Church has nothing to do with the claims against Haggis and has no connection with the attorneys behind the accusers’ case,” Scientology spokesperson Karin Pouw told The Daily Beast in a statement. . “The Church has nothing to do with the claims against Haggis or any connection to his accusers.”

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