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Sexual Assault Charge Against Paul Haggis Swiftly Dropped by Italian Court

Six weeks ago, we here at Hollywood North Magazine, along with every other news outlet you can name, reported that Oscar-winning screenwriter, producer and director, Paul Haggis, who is originally from London, Ontario, had been detained, placed under house arrest, and charged with sexual assault by Italian authorities while attending Allora Fest, a film festival in the city of Ostuni.

Things did not look good for Haggis, who already had a history of accusations laid against him (more on that in a moment), but according to the latest developments, as reported by Italian news outlet ANSA on Saturday, the charges have been dropped by the District Court of Lecce, where three judges ruled unanimously in the filmmaker’s favour. Haggis’ lawyer, Michele Laforgia, says that when a judge of the Court of Brindisi questioned the alleged victim, his house arrest was immediately overturned. The prosecutors of course filed an appeal, but that too was shot down by another judge.

The alleged victim, an unnamed 28-year-old British woman, claimed that Haggis had forced her to have sex with him over a two-day period. In a statement released after the verdict, Laforgia cited “irrefutable and objective evidence that the woman told multiple lies to investigators and the court, with facts and witnesses completely contradicting her story” as the reason for the case being dropped. 

The alleged victim’s legal team have yet to comment.

While the case is still technically ongoing, it is expected to be fully dropped in the coming weeks given that four different judges have swiftly ruled in Haggis’ favour. That is, unless new evidence crops up in the meantime. Laforgia elaborated that the reasons for the judges’ decision will be known, as well as the ultimate fate of the case.

However, this does not spell the end of Haggis’ legal woes. As mentioned, there is a history of allegations levelled against the Canadian filmmaker, one of which comes from American film publicist Haleigh Breest, who has accused him of raping her in 2013. While Haggis admits to the sexual encounter, he maintains that it was consensual. Ms. Breest is now suing Haggis in civil court, a filing she made in 2017 but has been delayed until October 11th this year due to delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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