Filmmaker Paul Haggis arrested over sexual assault allegations in Italy | Culture

Authorities arrested Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis on Sunday in connection with allegations he sexually assaulted a woman in southern Italy, Italian media said, citing local prosecutors.

Haggis, 69, of Canadian origin, was in Italy for a film festival which begins on Tuesday in Ostuni, a tourist town in Puglia, the region that forms the “heel” of the Italian peninsula.

A lawyer for Haggis, Priya Chaudhry, released a statement declaring the director “completely innocent”.

“Under Italian law, I cannot discuss the evidence,” Chaudhry said. “Having said that, I am confident that all allegations against Mr. Haggis will be dismissed. He is completely innocent and ready to cooperate fully with the authorities so that the truth comes to light quickly.

A statement from the film festival upon release Variety said organizers “learned with dismay and shock the news that Paul Haggis was in custody for alleged abuse”.

The directors of the festival “immediately proceeded to remove
participation of the director of the event” and “at the same time,
they express their full solidarity with the woman involved,” their statement added.

Haggis is a director, producer and screenwriter. He won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2006 for Crash. He went on to write screenplays for Million Dollar Baby, the James Bond episodes Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale, as well as directing In the Valley of Elah and The Next Three Days.

He was previously a prominent Scientologist and wrote about his process of escaping from the organization.

The LaPresse news agency and several other Italian outlets published a written statement from prosecutors in the nearby town of Brindisi that they were investigating allegations involving a “young foreign woman” who was forced to have “unwanted” sex. consensual” for two days.

Prosecutors Antonio Negro and Livia Orlando, who are leading the investigation, said in the statement that the woman was “forced to see a doctor” after the sex. After a few days “of non-consensual relations, the woman was accompanied by the man” to Brindisi airport on Sunday and “was left there at dawn despite (her) precarious physical and psychological conditions”.

The Brindisi prosecutor’s office was reportedly closed on Sunday. Haggis’ attorney did not immediately respond to news organizations’ request for comment.

Prosecutors said airport staff and police noticed her “obviously confused condition” and – after giving her initial treatment – took her to Brindisi police headquarters. Officers accompanied her to a local hospital for an examination.

It was not immediately clear whether Haggis was being held at the police station, a hotel or other accommodation.

Italian prosecutors also reportedly said the woman “formalized her complaint and cited circumstances that were later reviewed for confirmation by investigators.” They did not cite his nationality or age.

Paul Haggis was previously accused in the United States of sexual misconduct by four women, including two rape allegations, in 2018. In the case, which has yet to go to court, the director originally made the subject of a lawsuit from a publicist who claimed he raped her. Three other women have filed charges.

Publicist Haleigh Breest accused Haggis of “a shocking and egregious case of rape and sexual assault” that occurred in 2013. Haggis filed a countersuit claiming the lawsuit was “extortion”, a $9million attempt dollars to extract money from him. The three subsequent accusers have not revealed their identities.

Haggis’ legal team denied any charges, saying “he didn’t rape anyone”.

In an interview with the Guardian about sexual harassment in Hollywood, Haggis called it a “pretty sexist” city.

“A lot of people are compromised by Harvey’s alleged actions,” he said. “While everyone thinks this is despicable behavior, you need to focus on those who may have colluded with him and protected him.”

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