Director Paul Haggis appears in Italian court amid assault probe

Film director Paul Haggis has appeared in court in southern Italy amid a police investigation into a woman’s allegations he had sex with her without her consent over the course of two days.

Haggis, who is best known for writing the screenplays for movies ‘Crash’, ‘Million Dollar Baby’, the James along with two James Bond films, 69, made no comment as he arrived with Italian lawyer Michele Laforgia at the courthouse in Brindisi, a port town in Puglia, the region that forms the ‘heel’ of south-east Italy.

There was no sign that members of his family who were in Italy at the time of his arrest.

Prosecutors announced on Sunday that police had detained the Canadian-born director, screenwriter and producer for investigation of alleged aggravated sexual violence and aggravated personal injuries.

Haggis, who co-wrote, directed and produced Crash, which won the 2006 Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay, is pictured with his lawyers outside the court in Italy

Haggis, who co-wrote, directed and produced Crash, which won the 2006 Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay, is pictured with his lawyers outside the court in Italy Haggis is pictured scanning through metal detectors at the Brindisi law court in southern Italy

Haggis, who co-wrote, directed and produced Crash, which won the 2006 Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay, is pictured with his lawyers outside the court in Italy Haggis is pictured scanning through metal detectors at the Brindisi law court in southern Italy

File photo: Haggis is pictured on October 16, 2015 arriving at the Rome Film Festival

File photo: Haggis is pictured on October 16, 2015 arriving at the Rome Film Festival

State TV and other Italian media said the alleged victim is reportedly a young British woman who had known Haggis before he came to the tourist town of Ostuni to participate in an arts festival.

Haggis co-wrote, directed and produced Crash, which won the 2006 Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay.

He also wrote the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, another Oscar winner.

Haggis has had legal problems in recent years stemming from sexual misconduct accusations by four women in the United States.

In Italy, a judge, after hearing arguments from both prosecutors and defense lawyers, is expected to rule on Wednesday on whether Haggis should be freed from custody pending possible additional investigation.

The judge could also decide to order him kept jailed or under house arrest.

Haggis’ US-based lawyer, Priya Chaudhry, told The Associated Press on Sunday that although she could not discuss the evidence under Italian law, ‘I am confident that all allegations will be dismissed against Mr Haggis’.

She added: ‘He is totally innocent, and willing to fully co-operate with the authorities so the truth comes out quickly.’

An external view of the Brindisi law court, with the judge set to rule on whether Haggis can be set free pending possible additional investigation

An external view of the Brindisi law court, with the judge set to rule on whether Haggis can be set free pending possible additional investigation

Paul Haggis' defense lawyer Michele Laforgia grimaces as he leaves after an hearing against-born Canadian film director Paul Haggis at Brindisi law court in southern Italy

Paul Haggis’ defense lawyer Michele Laforgia grimaces as he leaves after an hearing against-born Canadian film director Paul Haggis at Brindisi law court in southern Italy

The young woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was found in a confused state by airline staff at Brindisi airport in southern Italy early on Sunday morning.

She told police Haggis – who is in Italy for a film festival which is due to start on Tuesday – had kept her for 48 hours in a bed and breakfast and abused her before dumping her at the airport.

Prosecutors in Brindisi announced on Sunday that police had detained the Canadian-born director, screenwriter and producer for investigation of alleged aggravated sexual violence and aggravated personal injuries.

Haggis wrote the screenplays for the Daniel Craig blockbusters Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace and he won an Oscar with his screenplay for the 2004 hit Crash

Haggis wrote the screenplays for the Daniel Craig blockbusters Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace and he won an Oscar with his screenplay for the 2004 hit Crash

The 65-year-old filmmaker won Oscars for his films Million Dollar Baby and Crash

The 65-year-old filmmaker won Oscars for his films Million Dollar Baby and Crash

The 65-year-old filmmaker won Oscars for his films Million Dollar Baby and Crash

Police called to the airport by staff tracked Haggis down at his hotel in Ostuni and he was questioned before being released and has been told not to leave the country ahead of a preliminary appearance before an investigating judge in nearby Brindisi.

They said the woman arrived in Italy on June 15 and was found in the early hours of Sunday at the airport.

Local prosecutors Antonio Negro and Livia Orlando confirmed they were investigating an allegation of rape but said they would be unable to speak ahead of today’s planned court appearance.

An arts festival Haggis was scheduled to attend began on Tuesday in the town of Ostuni

An arts festival Haggis was scheduled to attend began on Tuesday in the town of Ostuni

Haleigh Breest, 32, filed a lawsuit in December 2017 alleging Haggis raped her in his New York City apartment after a movie premiere in 2013

Haleigh Breest, 32, filed a lawsuit in December 2017 alleging Haggis raped her in his New York City apartment after a movie premiere in 2013

Haggis was due to take part with the Allora Film Festival and give a series of talks on film production while his daughter Alissa was also among those taking part, along with Jeremy Irons and Matt Dillon.

In 2018, the Academy-Award winning director pre-emptively counter-sued publicist Haleigh Breest, 32, who filed a lawsuit in December 2017, alleging he raped her in his apartment after a movie premiere in 2013.

But the judge granted a motion to dismiss Haggis’ lawsuit.

According to the suit, Breest had accepted his offer of a ride home. Instead, she said, he brought her to his dela apartment in SoHo and invited her inside for a drink.

Three additional women came forward in January with their own sexual misconduct accusations against Haggis, including another publicist who says he forced her to perform oral sex, then raped her.

The accusers said the attacks took place between 1996 and 2015.

Haggis is an ex-Scientologist who defected from the Church in 2009 after remaining a members for 35 years, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

After the sexual misconduct allegations arose, two other prominent defectors shared an open letter claiming they believe the Church of Scientology was behind the allegations.

He was Senior Executive of the Church of Scientology and a spokesperson for the organization at the time.

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