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‘He Wanted Some Kind of Dirt’


The defense in the Paul Haggis rape trial had a busy start to the week Monday, calling several witnesses including his adult daughter, a personal friend who says she once rejected Haggis’ advance without incident, a memory expert who previously testified in Harvey Weinstein’s New York trail and a former Scientologist who testified that church officials once ordered her to dig up dirt on the Oscar-winning “Crash” director.

The jury heard nearly two weeks of plaintiffs’ testimony in the civil trial being brought by Haleigh Breest, a former freelance events publicist who says Haggis pressured her to his Manhattan apartment after a 2013 movie premiere and raped her. Though the judge explained to the jury that both parties agree that Breest is not a Scientologist, and she testified that she was not being supported by the church in any way, Haggis’ team has continued to present its Scientology defense.

On Friday, Haggis’ friend and former prominent Scientologist Mike Rinder testified that the church would pursue the destruction of its enemies “at all cost” – but did not say he had any specific knowledge connecting the church to Breest’s lawsuit. That theme continued Monday as the defense called Shawna Brakefield, a documentary producer and former Scientologist who testified via video conference.

Brakefield was still a Scientology member when Haggis parted acrimoniously in 2009, then began speaking out against the church. She testified that Tom Davis, the church’s chief spokesperson and head of external affairs at the time, called Brakefield and told her to retrieve “copies of complaints or any negative comments” regarding Haggis.

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“It was clear he wasn’t after compliments and supportive material,” she said. “He wanted some kind of dirt. … It was a very intimidating phone call. I felt that, as a member of the church, you were expected to be loyal to the group and protect the group at all costs. And me not participating could have ramifications on me.”

Brakefield said she witnessed the church make personal attacks, publish hateful material and try to smear people. When she first read about Breest’s case, she said, “the first thing I thought of was that the church was behind it. It just has nothing to do with who Paul was.”

Earlier Monday, Paul Haggis’ daughter Alissa testified on her father’s behalf. Alissa Haggis said she parted with the church at 18 when she realized she was gay. Her father followed not long after, in part over the church’s stance on gay marriage.

Alissa Haggis said she used to be a working screenplay writer in Hollywood, but that the Breest case put that to an end. “I don’t have much of a career right now,” she said. “Hollywood won’t hire me because I have the name Haggis.”

She testified that she believes there’s circumstantial evidence that…



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