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Director Paul Haggis's civil trial for rape opens in New York

Director Paul Haggis's civil trial for rape opens in New York

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The New York civil trial against Oscar-winning Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis, who is accused of raping a publicist in 2013, opened on Wednesday.

Haggis, who wrote and directed "Crash," and penned the screenplay for "Million Dollar Baby," arrived in court in the morning, an AFP photographer observed.

The 69-year-old was accused in December 2017 by film publicist Haleigh Breest of abusing and raping her in January 2013 when she was 26 years old.

With the #MeToo movement gaining ground, three more women subsequently accused Haggis of sexual assault.

More recently, Haggis was arrested in June in southern Italy on suspicion of aggravated sexual assault in a different case. He denied any wrongdoing and was soon released.

The filmmaker's lawyers suggested on Wednesday that Breest's suit was guided by the Church of Scientology, which Haggis left and has since criticized, according to US media.

The plaintiff's lawyers denied the accusation.

In her suit, Breest said that on the evening of January 31, 2013, after a film screening in Manhattan, the director insisted she have a drink at his home, even though she preferred to go to a bar.

Once in his apartment, Haggis made multiple advances before making her perform oral sex and then raping her, she says.

Known for being one of the creators of the "Walker Texas Ranger" television series, Haggis received an Oscar for best picture and best original screenplay in 2006 for "Crash."

He was additionally the screenwriter for Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby," "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima," as well as James Bond films "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace."