The defense in Paul Haggis’ rape case had a busy start to the week on Monday, calling several witnesses including his adult daughter, a personal friend who says she once refused Haggis’ submissions without incident, and a memory expert who previously testified at Harvey Weinstein in New York. A former Scientologist and coach who testified that church officials once ordered her to dig dirt on the director of the Oscar-winning movie “Crash.”
The jury heard Almost two weeks Prosecutors’ testimony in the civil trial given by Haley Priest, a former self-employed publicist who says Haggis pressured her into his Manhattan apartment after the 2013 film premiere and raped her. Although the judge explained to the jury that both parties agreed that Brest was not a Scientologist, she testified that she was Not supported by the church Either way, the Haggis team has continued to advance its defense of Scientology.
On Friday, Haggis’ friend and former prominent Scientologist Mike Rinder testified that the Church would continue to destroy its enemies “at any cost” – but he did not say he had any specific knowledge linking the Church to the Brest lawsuit. This topic continued on Monday as the defense called Shauna Brakfield, a documentary producer and former Scientologist who testified via video conference.
Brakfield was still a member of Scientology when Haggis broke up sharply in 2009, and then began speaking out against the church. She testified that Tom Davis, the church’s spokesperson and head of foreign affairs at the time, called Brackfield and asked her to retrieve “copies of complaints or any negative comments” regarding Haggis.
“It was clear that he was not seeking praise and supporting material,” she said. He wanted some kind of dirt. … It was a very scary phone call. I, as a member of the Church, felt that you would be expected to be loyal to the group and protect the group at all costs. My failure to participate may have repercussions on me.”
Brackfield said she has seen the church carry out personal attacks, publish hateful material and try to discredit people. When she first read about the Priest case, she said, “My first thought was that the church was behind it. It has nothing to do with who Paul was.”
Earlier on Monday, Paul Haggis’ daughter Alyssa testified on behalf of her father. Alyssa Haggis said she broke up with the church at the age of 18 when she realized she was gay. Her father followed her shortly thereafter, due in part to the Church’s position on same-sex marriage.
Alyssa Haggis said she was a working screenwriter in Hollywood, but the Brest case put an end to that. “I don’t have a lot of jobs right now,” she said. “Hollywood won’t hire me because I have the name Haggis.”
She testified that she believed there was circumstantial evidence that the Church planned to destroy her father, but that “there is no way I can know that firsthand.”
Ilan Mazel, Brest’s attorney, has repeatedly mocked “Scientology’s defense.”
“Scientology has nothing to do with this case,” she told TheWrap. “Even Paul Haggis has admitted he has no evidence of church involvement. This is a cynical tactic to divert attention from Mrs. Priest, the other women who have come forward, and the case.”
During morning testimony in New York, the jury also heard from Sarah McNally, a freelance bookseller who said she met Haggis at a party in 2016 and struck up a friendship. She testified that the first time they were alone, he tried to kiss her, but she was not interested and turned her head.
“He shrugged his shoulders and went, ‘Okay,’” McNally said. “It was the most easy and calm response.” Support witnesses for the plaintiff testified that Haggis was “raging” and very aggressive. I pursued them relentlessly After initially refusing it.
McNally said that after ignoring Haggis’ initial advances, they ended up hanging out together dozens of times without incident. I read a statement I made in 2018, a month after Brest’s filing, at the request of Haggis’ ex-wife:
“Paul Haggis is the most intelligent, endlessly generous, kind, supportive, intelligent, and funny man. The accusations against him surprised me because one of his most prevalent personality traits is his instinctive dedication to making everyone around him feel happy and comfortable. In the absence of due process, and in the absence of due process, and in Having a Vengeful Church of Scientology, I find it very difficult to believe these accusations.
The jury also heard from psychology professor and memory expert Deborah Davis, a serial expert witness who also testified as counsel for the defense team in the Harvey Weinstein criminal trial in New York. Davis is also scheduled to testify at Weinstein’s trial in Los Angeles.
The essence of Davis’ testimony is the same in all cases. She told the jury on Monday that people’s memories, affected by certain emotional states, can develop to the point that they remember things that didn’t happen.
“What remains over time is the story we tell ourselves about what happened,” she said.