Director Paul Haggis detained in hotel ahead of Italian hearing in sex case

ROME (AP) — Director Paul Haggis was being held in a southern Italian hotel room on Monday pending a court hearing as prosecutors continue their investigation into a woman’s allegations that he allegedly had sex with her without her consent for two days.

Prosecutors in Brindisi, a port city in Puglia, the region that forms the “heel” of southeastern Italy, announced on Sunday that police had arrested the 69-year-old Canadian-born director, screenwriter and producer, to investigate allegations of aggravated sexual violence. and aggravated bodily harm.

They described the alleged victim as a “young foreign woman”.

State television and other Italian media said it was a 30-year-old Englishwoman who had known Haggis before he came to the tourist town of Ostuni to take part in an arts festival which starts Tuesday. They said he was being held in a hotel room in that city.

Haggis’ Italian lawyer was in court Monday morning on other matters and could not be reached for comment.

On Sunday, Haggis’ US attorney, Priya Chaudhry, told the AP that although she cannot discuss the evidence under Italian law, “I am confident that all allegations against Mr. Haggis will be dismissed. . He is completely innocent and ready to cooperate fully with the authorities so that the truth comes to light quickly.

Brindisi prosecutor Antonio Negro said on Monday that the exact date for this week’s hearing remains to be determined.

Under Italian law, a judge, after hearing arguments from prosecutors and defense lawyers, will decide whether Haggis can be released pending further investigation. A judge can also decide if there is a risk of flight or the possibility of tampering with evidence or committing the same alleged crime and order that he be imprisoned or placed under house arrest.

In a written statement on Sunday announcing that Haggis had been detained, prosecutors said that “according to the (investigative) evidence collected, Haggis allegedly “forced the young woman, known to him some time ago, to submit to sexual relations”.

The statement also said the woman was “forced into medical treatment.” Prosecutors added that after a few days of non-consensual relations, the woman was accompanied “by Haggis to Brindisi airport and” was left there at dawn despite (her) precarious physical and psychological conditions.

Airport staff and police noticed her “obvious state of confusion” and took her to Brindisi police headquarters, where officers accompanied her to a local hospital for examination, prosecutors said. .

Haggis is director, producer and screenwriter. He won an Oscar in 2006 for Best Original Screenplay for “Crash.”

In recent years, Haggis has had legal troubles stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct by four women in the United States.

After a civil lawsuit, filed in New York in late 2017, alleging he raped a publicist, three other women brought their own accusations of sexual misconduct, including another publicist who said he forced her to practice sex. oral sex, then raped her.

Haggis denied the initial rape allegations in a counter-complaint at trial and said the accuser and her attorney demanded a $9 million payment to avoid legal action. Haggis called it extortion.

Brindisi prosecutors, in their statement, said the woman “formalized her complaint and cited circumstances that were later reviewed for confirmation by investigators.”

Along with his film work, Haggis has portrayed himself as an advocate for the oppressed in his films, addressing racism, euthanasia and war.

Themes for the Ostuni festival included equality, gender parity and solidarity.

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