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Director Paul Haggis appears in court following sex assault claim

Director Paul Haggis appeared in Italian court Wednesday for the first time following the sexual assault allegations lodged against him.

A judge is expected to rule on whether Haggis, 69, should be freed from custody pending additional investigation into claims that he raped a British woman over the course of two days last week.

Outside the courthouse in the southern Italian town of Brindisi, where Haggis is being held under house arrest, his lawyer reiterated that that the director and screenwriter says he is innocent.

“Paul Haggis answered all questions and explained what happened,” Michele Laforgia said. “He declared himself, as he had already done right after the detention, completely innocent, in the sense that the sex he had with this woman was totally consensual.”

Paul Haggis, center, arrives with his lawyer Michele Laforgia at Brindisi law court in southern Italy.
Salvatore Laporta/AP
Michele Laforgia, lawyer of Canadian director Paul Haggis.
“He declared himself, as he had already done right after the detention, completely innocent,” Michele Laforgia, Paul Haggis’s lawyer, said.
Danilo Santoro/EPA

Haggis — who wrote and directed the Oscar-winning 2006 movie “Crash” — has been ordered to remain in his guest house in Italy during the investigation. The judge could also decide to keep him under house arrest, or order him jailed.

The British woman, 30, was discovered hiding in a corner of the Brindisi airport early Wednesday morning after Haggis allegedly dropped her off there. 

A flight attendant who brought the woman to the authorities said “she was destroyed” and ”she spoke with difficulty,” the Daily Beast reported. She was then taken to a hospital to be treated for what prosecutors described as “repeated non-consenting sexual assaults.”

Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon in "Crash."
Paul Haggis wrote and directed the Oscar-winning 2006 movie “Crash.”
Lions Gate/Courtesy Everett Collection
Paul Haggis, right, arrives with his lawyer Federico Straziota at Brindisi law court in southern Italy.
Paul Haggis is accused of raping a British woman over the course of two days.
Salvatore Laporta/AP

Laforgia disputed these claims, saying the woman had no signs of injury or violence perpetrated against her.

Haggis has previously faced sexual misconduct claims in the US by four women.

Publicist Haleigh Breest filed a civil lawsuit against Haggis in 2017 in New York. She alleges that Haggis raped her in his Soho apartment in 2013 following a film premiere. The case is still pending and no trial date has yet been set, according to The Wrap. Three other women came forward with their own allegations after Breest.

Before he won the Oscar for “Crash,” Haggis also wrote and produced 2004’s “Million Dollar Baby” and was the screenwriter for the James Bond film “Casino Royale” and story writer for “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

He was in Italy for an arts festival.

Paul Haggis arrives at Brindisi law court in southern Italy.
Paul Haggis has previously faced sexual misconduct claims in the US by four women.
Salvatore Laporta/AP
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