Director Paul Haggis asked a judge on Friday to speed up his civil trial on a rape allegation, saying he has nearly been bankrupted by legal fees and needs to clear his name in order to work.
Haggis said he cannot continue to pay his legal bills, and asked the New York judge to set a trial “at the earliest practical date.”
Haggis, who wrote and directed “In the Valley of Elah” and the 2006 Oscar winner “Crash,” was sued three years ago by Haleigh Breest, a publicist who alleged that he had violently raped her after a premiere in 2013. Haggis maintains that the encounter was consensual. He simultaneously sued Breest, accusing her of using a false allegation to try to extort him out of $9 million.
Haggis’ suit was dismissed, while Breest’s has gone through motions and discovery and is now ready for trial. Due to the COVID slowdown in the court system, however, it is not clear when the case will actually get to a jury. Haggis’ lawyer, Seth Zuckerman, warns that it could take another year or two, unless Judge Robert Reed orders an earlier date.
In the motion, Haggis states that he has been unable to find work as a director or producer since the suit was filed in December 2017. He says he has found a “tiny fraction” of the writing jobs he used to get, but at drastically reduced rates.
“I have had discussions with producers and financiers, but have been repeatedly told that they cannot work with me until I clear my name,” Haggis said in a declaration. “Others have demanded I remove my name from projects or they will not be produced or distributed… Potential employers and film financiers have even expressed that once this lawsuit is over and my name is cleared, they will be willing to hire me again.”
Haggis has racked up nearly $2 million in legal bills, according to his motion. He said he had borrowed against his home in Soho and exhausted his savings.
“Defendant is no longer in a position to finance his defense with this matter lingering in advance of trial,” Zuckerman wrote. “The notoriety of this case imprisons Mr. Haggis, and he can only be free to work again when he wins at trial.”
Zuckerman also stated that evidence obtained in discovery shows that Haggis is innocent, but that evidence cannot be disclosed due to a protective order.