Lawyer decries ‘outrageous’ suggestion Scientology is paying for his client’s rape lawsuit against Paul Haggis

  • Haleigh Breest is suing Paul Haggis, who raped her at his apartment in 2013.

  • In court Thursday, Haggis’ attorney said Breest is lying and that Scientologists may be behind her claim.

  • Breest’s attorney said Haggis’ attorneys suggested his firm is being paid by the Scientologists.

A lawyer representing Paul Haggis’ rape accuser complained in court onThursday about the “outrageous” suggestion that his firm is being paid by theChurch of Scientology.

Haggis, the Oscar-winning writer and director behind the films “Crash” and”Million Dollar Baby,” left the church in 2009 and told the New Yorker twoyears later that the church would likely frame him in a scandal forretribution.

He’s currently standing trial in New York Supreme Court in a civil casebrought by Haleigh Breest, a publicist who alleges Haggis raped her at hisManhattan apartment in 2013. She’s asking the jury to award her unspecifieddamages. Haggis claims the sex was consensual.

In court on Thursday, Ilann Maazel, whose firm is representing Breest,complained that Haggis’ lawyers suggested while questioning Breest’s therapistthe day before that his firm is being paid by the Scientologists. Haggis’attorneys, Priya Chaudhry and Seth Zuckerman, did not immediately respond toInsider’s request for comment about the claim.

“It was outrageous for them to suggest that,” Maazel said in court onThursday. “We’ve received no money whatsoever from the Church of Scientology.”

“They are smearing my law firm — a preeminent civil rights firm in the city,”Maazel added.


Haleigh Breest, center, is pictured with her lawyers Zoe Salzman, left, andIlann Maazel, right, in New York court on October 17, 2022.Yuki Iwamura/AP

Maazel asked Judge Sabrina Kraus to stop any line of questioning suggestingthat his firm is being paid by the Scientologists. But in a pre-trial ruling,Kraus allowed Haggis’ lawyers to argue that Scientologists are behind theallegation. She reiterated Thursday that Haggis’ lawyers would be allowed tocontinue exploring that theory during the trial.

Story continues

“I’m not going to preclude them from asking about it,” she said.

In opening statements, Zoe Salzman, one of Breest’s lawyers, said Haggis hasalready admitted he doesn’t have any proof the Church of Scientology wasinvolved.

But Chaudhry pointed out that Haggis doesn’t have the burden of proof becausehe didn’t file the lawsuit.

Nevertheless, Chaudhry said the circumstantial evidence that theScientologists are involved will be “strong.”

“The Church of Scientology is very successful at destroying its enemieswithout leaving a single fingerprint behind,” Chaudhry said.

Salzman also asked if Breest had ever been a member of the Church ofScientology, had a family member who was, ever attended a Scientology event,or even been into on of the church’s buildings.

Breest answered “No” every time and also said Scientologists had neverencouraged her to come forward or offered her any support whatsoever.

In court on Friday, Salzman sought to finally put the Scientology question torest.

She had Breest point out on the stand that the firm representing her, EmeryCelli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, hasn’t even been paid for their workyet. They were hired for a “contingency fee,” meaning they only get paid ifthey win the case, at which point they get a cut of the damages.

Karin Pouw, a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology, told Insider onFriday that “the church has nothing to do with the claims against Haggis nordoes it have any relation to his accusers.”

“I repeat: the church has nothing to do with Haggis’ accusers nor theirattorneys. The church has never been involved in any way, financially orother,” Pouw added.

“Haggis, a con man, continues to shop his scripted story to any who will buy