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

Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis is seen in New York Supreme Court.Julia Nikhinson/AP

  • 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 on Thursday about the “outrageous” suggestion that his firm is being paid by the Church 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 two years later that the church would likely frame him in a scandal for retribution.

He’s currently standing trial in New York Supreme Court in a civil case brought by Haleigh Breest, a publicist who alleges Haggis raped her at his Manhattan apartment in 2013. She’s asking the jury to award her unspecified damages. 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 therapist the day before that his firm is being paid by the Scientologists. Haggis’ attorneys, Priya Chaudhry and Seth Zuckerman, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment about the claim.

“It was outrageous for them to suggest that,” Maazel said in court on Thursday. “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

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

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

“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 has already admitted he doesn’t have any proof the Church of Scientology was involved.

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

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

“The Church of Scientology is very successful at destroying its enemies without leaving a single fingerprint behind,” Chaudhry said.

Salzman also asked if Breest had ever been a member of the Church of Scientology, 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 never encouraged her to come forward or offered her any support whatsoever.

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

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

Karin Pouw, a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology, told Insider on Friday that “the church has nothing to do with the claims against Haggis nor does it have any relation to his accusers.”

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

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

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