A jury has been selected in the rape trial against the Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis. The trial is set to begin with opening remarks in New York City.
Haggis, the director of ‘Crash’ and screenwriter of ‘Million Dollar Baby’, has been accused of raping a publicist named Haleigh Breest after a movie premiere nearly a decade ago. Breest’s lawsuit was filed in 2017 in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which led to an influx of sexual assault allegations against prominent men, reports ‘Variety’.
Haggis has claimed the encounter, which took place in 2013, was consensual and maintains the rape charge came in retaliation for his decision to leave and then criticise the Church of Scientology.
Prior to the trial, Breest’s attorneys sought to block Haggis from arguing that Scientology was orchestrating the allegations in retaliation, saying that Breest and other witnesses have no connection to the church.
According to ‘Variety’, they also argued that pursuing that line of defence will distract the jury from the particulars of Breest’s allegations. But in September, Judge Sabrina Kraus ruled that Haggis will be able to use that argument.
On Tuesday (Pacific Standard Time), the defence and the prosecution questioned the potential jurors about their familiarity with the #MeToo movement, as well as the Church of Scientology.
The focus on the controversial religion, however, wasn’t nearly as pronounced as it was at the jury selection for the rape trial for ‘That ’70s Show’ actor Danny Masterson, which is currently underway in Los Angeles.
‘Variety’ further states that attorneys revealed that Leah Remini, the ‘King of Queens’ star who left Scientology and became an outspoken critic, and Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon are among the defendant’s potential witnesses who could be called to testify.
Remini has previously suggested that Scientology was behind the sexual assault claims against Haggis.
After the jurors were selected, the attorneys and the judge deliberated a few key points regarding the line of questioning toward the potential jurors, as well as Scientology’s place in the trial.