In the Paul Haggis civil rape trial, the two sides haven’t agreed on much over the past week and a half. But on Friday, they did agree on something important.
Judge Sabrina Kraus said that both the lawyers for the Oscar winner and the lawyers for the woman who accused him, Haleigh Breest, say that there is “no evidence” that Breest is connected to the Church of Scientology. Haggis, who wrote “Million Dollar Baby” and directed “Crash,” was a member of the church for 35 years.
He left in 2009 because the church supported a ballot initiative in California that would have banned same-s*x marriage. Since then, he has spoken out against the company’s practices, including in a 2011 profile in The New Yorker.
Breest, who used to work as a freelance publicist for the Cinema Society, says that Haggis forced her to do oral sex on him and then raped her in his Soho apartment in 2013 after a movie premiere. But Haggis’s defence team said in its opening statement that Breest’s rape charge was a way for him to get back at Haggis for leaving Scientology and then criticizing it in public.
After Breest’s lawyers finished their part of the case, Mike Rinder was called to the stand by the defence council. Rinder was a Scientologist for 45 years before he left the church in 2007 and started speaking out against it. He talked about how, after leaving the church, he “died” for his family and friends.
Rinder said, “I became an enemy of Scientology.” “Anyone who speaks out against something the Church of Scientology doesn’t like must be shut up no matter what.”
Rinder testified that the Church of Scientology has an “extensive” manual on how to blackmail people who speak out against their practices.
“You find out what the person wants to protect and where they are weak… “You use those things to force the person to stay quiet,” Rinder said.
He went on to say, “When someone is becoming an enemy of Scientology, the first step is to attack them in a very clear way. It’s called an investigation with a lot of noise. If that doesn’t work and they’re a big enough problem, it turns into a secret intelligence operation, which the Church of Scientology will never admit to.
When Haggis first spoke out against the Church of Scientology, Rinder said, “I’m glad he saw the light like I did.” Rinder said that he, Haggis, and “King of Queens” star Leah Remini, another former Scientologist who now criticises the church, are the top three “suppressive people,” or official enemies of the church.
“They are always following me, and they have put up bad sites about me… “They have made a campaign against me, saying I beat my wife, and are now accusing me of it,” Rinder said.
Rinder said he didn’t know Breest and that he had nothing to do with the case. He said, “I don’t think I would be if she was a church member.” “No one would know about that if I hadn’t set up that operation,” he said.
He also said in court that he had never asked Haggis what happened with Breest on the night in question. Ilann Maazel, Breest’s lawyer, told reporters outside of the courtroom that the whole Scientology defence was embarrassing. “That’s crazy.”
Judge Kraus made it clear in court that Haggis’s team was no longer going to say that Scientology was behind the rape claims against the filmmaker, even though Rinder was there.
As the last expert witness for the plaintiff, Dr. Lisa Rocchio was asked to talk about the “complex trauma” that Breest has been through since the alleged rape. She said that after the alleged rape, Breest “avoided sexual activity” and “avoided interactions” with Haggis at Cinema Society events. She said these were signs that the alleged rape had hurt Breest’s mind.
Seth Zuckerman, who works for the defense, said that Rocchio testified in the civil case against Kevin Spacey that ended last week. In that case, both sides argued about whether or not the Oscar-winning actor tried to molest 14-year-old Anthony Rapp.
In the end, a jury in New York said that Spacey was not guilty of battery. Spacey’s lawyers said that Rapp got important facts about the layout of Spacey’s apartment wrong, which made it hard to believe what he said.
“There’s no question that Ms. Breest and Mr. Haggis were in the apartment together in this case,” Rocchio said. “The disagreement is over whether or not they agreed to it.” A jury decided that Rapp could not sue Spacey for damages.
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