As “Crash” director Paul Haggis remains in custody in Italy, awaiting a Wednesday preliminary hearing on charges of sexual assault and aggravated personal injury allegedly inflicted on an unidentified young woman, more details about the case are surfacing.
In a statement to Variety, Haggis’ Italian lawyer Michele Laforgia said that the director “immediately stated that he is completely innocent and hopes for the maximum speed of all necessary investigations to clarify the matter.” The lawyer added that “Haggis will answer all questions.” The filmmaker is currently in custody at a 5-star hotel in Ostuni, in southern Italy.
According to multiple reports and sources, the alleged victim, who has pressed charges, is a British woman who is considerably younger than the 69-year-old filmmaker. She is believed to be either in her 30s or early 40s. She and Haggis met at the end of April at a film festival, according to an article in well-respected Italian newspaper La Repubblica, whose journalist has seen a copy of the prosecutor’s report.
Haggis presided over the jury of the Monte-Carlo Comedy Film Festival (pictured above), which ran April 25-30. After the pair’s first encounter, Haggis and the alleged victim subsequently communicated via Instagram and text messages, according to the La Repubblica article. The outlet also reports that the alleged victim arrived via a low-cost airline on Sunday, June 12, in Ostuni, a small tourist town in Puglia, the “heel” of southeastern Italy.
During the course of the next two days, during which the woman and Haggis slept in the same hotel room, Haggis allegedly ”forced the young woman, known by him from some time ago, to submit to sexual relations,” according to a written statement issued by prosecutor Antonio Negro on Sunday (June 19), which announced that Haggis had been detained.
The prosecutors’ statement also said that the British woman was “forced to seek medical care” due to injuries that are consistent with her allegations of sexual assault.
As previously reported, after being allegedly assaulted, the woman was accompanied by Haggis to Brindisi airport at the crack of dawn and left there despite her “precarious physical and psychological conditions,” the report says.
Airport staff and police noticed the woman crouched in a corner of the small airport in an “obvious confused state.” They took the alleged victim to the port city of Brindisi’s police headquarters. From there, officers escorted her to the A. Perrino hospital in Brindisi, where Italy’s so-called “pink protocol” for rape victims, which includes psychological counseling, was put into effect. The result of the examination and counseling prompted the woman to press charges against Haggis.
Under Italian law, after hearing arguments from both prosecutors and defense lawyers during the first preliminary hearing, the judge can either set Haggis free pending further investigation; or, instead, he can be jailed or continue to be held under house arrest at the hotel.
The next step is a special evidence pre-trial hearing, likely next week, that is expected to involve a cross examination between Haggis and the alleged victim, who is believed to still be in Italy, and their respective lawyers. The judge will then decide whether the case will go to trial.
Haggis, who has been spending time in Italy over the past few years, was in Ostuni to hold several master classes –– including with Jeremy Irons, Oliver Stone, Matt Dillon, Edward Norton and Marisa Tomei — at the Allora Fest, a new film event in Ostuni that Haggis was involved in launching in tandem with Los Angeles-based Italian journalist Silvia Bizio and Spanish art critic Sol Costales Doulton.
Allora Fest organizers — who on Sunday promptly removed Haggis from the event while expressing full solidarity with the alleged victim — kicked off the June 21-26 event on Tuesday without Haggis, but with all the aforementioned guests he had invited in attendance. “I am horrified about what has occurred and hope it will be clarified very soon,” Irons told newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Haggis, who wrote “Million Dollar Baby” and co-wrote and directed “Crash,” both of which he won an Oscar for, was sued in 2018 by publicist Haleigh Breest, who alleged that he had violently raped her after a premiere in 2013. The suit prompted three additional women to come forward with their own sexual misconduct accusations against Haggis, who has vehemently denied the claims. The trial is still pending due to COVID delays.