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Paul Haggis’ House Arrest on Sexual Assault Charges Ends; Lawyer Hails ‘Important Result’

Paul Haggis
Everett Collection

An Italian judge has ended filmmaker Paul Haggis’ 16-day house arrest in a hotel after being charged with sexual assault, his lawyer told news agencies.

Haggis’ lawyer Michele Laforgia told The Associated Press that Haggis remains in Italy while prosecutors decide whether to pursue their investigation into claims that he allegedly had sex with a woman without her consent over two days.

The ruling was made by Puglia-based judge Vilma Gilli, who noted an “absence of constricting violent behavior” by Haggis and also a complex story that blurs the original judgment of house arrest, per Italian news agency ANSA.

“The revocation order by the judge for preliminary investigations acknowledges not only the absence of any precautionary needs, but also excludes ‘any violent or otherwise coercive conduct’ by Paul Haggis,” Laforgia told Variety. “It is an important result, which confirms the version offered from the very first moment by Haggis on the voluntary nature of the relationship he had with the complainant and shows how our procedural system is capable, in a short time, of remedying mistakes and restoring freedom to those who are entitled to it.”

“We are confident that in an equally short time it will be possible to definitively clarify that Haggis did not commit any crime and he is completely innocent of this terrible accusation, as we have always said,” Laforgia added.

Haggis and his alleged victim, understood to be a 28-year-old British woman, attended the courthouse in the Southern port city of Brindisi accompanied by their lawyers for the special evidence pre-trial hearing last week. ANSA reported it was the first time accused and accuser came face to face since the alleged assault on June 15.

Haggis, who won two Oscars for “Crash” and is also known for writing “Million Dollar Baby,” was arrested on June 19 after the alleged victim told police the director had engaged in non-consensual sex with her twice. He has since appeared in court twice, with a judge ordering him to stay under house arrest in a nearby hotel.

Haggis originally came to Italy to attend the Allora Fest film festival, which he was involved in organizing and where he was due to hold a number of masterclasses, when the anonymous complainant flew in to join him. After her police complaint and Haggis’ subsequent arrest came to light the festival went ahead without the director earlier this month.

Haggis denies all the charges and claims the alleged victim consented to the sexual encounters.

Haggis is also facing court proceedings in the U.S. where he is being sued by film publicist Haleigh Breest, who alleges Haggis raped her in January 2013. Breest originally filed suit in December 2017, although proceedings were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A trial date has now been set for Oct. 11 in Manhattan. Haggis says the encounter with Breest, which allegedly took place after a premiere, was consensual.