NEW YORK (AP) — Jury selection began Monday in a civil case centered on a rape allegation against Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis, who has faced several sexual assault and misconduct allegations over the last five years.
The lawsuit that went to trial in New York was filed by a publicist who said the “Crash” and “Million Dollar Baby” screenwriter lured her to his Manhattan apartment and raped her after a 2013 movie premiere.
Haggis maintains the encounter was consensual. His lawyers have suggested that the Church of Scientology engineered false accusations of sexual misdeeds to discredit him. Haggis left the church in 2009 and later publicly denounced it.
The church has said it had no involvement in the allegations against Haggis.
No criminal charges were filed in connection with the publicist’s accusation. Her lawsuit could mean a financial penalty, but not prison or probation for Haggis if she prevails. She is seeking unspecified damages.
After the suit was filed in late 2017, three other women told her attorneys and The Associated Press that Haggis had sexually assaulted them or attempted to do so. One said he had raped her. In response, his lawyer said Haggis “didn’t rape anybody.”
The lawsuit was filed only by the publicist who made the 2013 rape allegation, but Judge Sabrina Kraus ruled last month that the other three women can also testify as part of the plaintiff’s effort to demonstrate Haggis’ “intent and lack of consent.”
Jurors won’t be allowed to hear that Haggis was detained for about two weeks at an Italian hotel in June while authorities investigated allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman there. Haggis was in Italy for an arts festival.
Haggis’ Italian attorney said the filmmaker was innocent and in early July, a judge released him while prosecutors considered whether to pursue their inquiry. The judge concluded that Haggis hadn’t engaged in “constrictive violent behavior,” according to the newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The Canadian-born Haggis wrote “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash,” which won back-to-back Academy Awards for best picture in the mid-2000s. He also directed and was a producer of “Crash,” which garnered him and Bobby Moresco the best original screenplay Oscar in 2006. The next year, Haggis was nominated in the same category for “Letters from Iwo Jima.”