An Italian judge has ruled that Paul Haggis is to remain under house arrest in the case that sees the "Crash" director accused by an unidentified woman of repeated sexual assault and aggravated personal injury.
Judge Vilma Gilli made her decision several hours after a preliminary hearing Wednesday in which Haggis answered questions in the courthouse in the Southern port city of Brindisi, on the "heel" of the Italian boot. During deliberation, Haggis said his sexual relations with the woman had been consensual. The judge ruled that Haggis must remain in the hotel in nearby Ostuni, where he has been in custody since Sunday.
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In a statement to Variety, Haggis' Italian attorney Michele Laforgia said the judge "applied the precautionary measure of house arrest" to Haggis, believing that, "pending the hearing of the alleged victim, there is a risk of evidence-tampering of the only source of evidence which she deems necessary to submit to further checks and findings." The source of evidence is the alleged victim herself.
Laforgia reiterated that Haggis denies the accusations and trusts "that the complete truth of the facts will be quickly re-established and his freedom returned."
The next step is likely to be a special evidence pre-trial hearing, probably next week, that is expected to involve a cross examination between Haggis and the alleged victim, who is believed to still be in Italy, and their respective lawyers. The judge will then decide whether the case will go to trial.
On Wednesday morning, Haggis, 69, and his attorney entered the courthouse where Haggis underwent several hours of questioning in a preliminary hearing during which the Canadian filmmaker denied the sexual assault charges and said there had been mutual consent.
Speaking to Variety, Laforgia said that "Haggis made a long, written deposition and then answered all questions reconstructing day by day - and in some cases hour by hour - what took place during the three days during which he was in the company of this woman in Ostuni," the attorney said.
Because Haggis doesn't speak Italian, he submitted written statements in English to the court throughout the hearing which were then translated during the hearing.
"The relations he had with this woman are totally consensual," Laforgia said. He went on to note that "contrary to what is assumed to be present in the charges [against Haggis] there is no injury and no sign of violence" in the medical report issued by the Brindisi hospital where the alleged victim was taken on Sunday.
The attorney also pointed out that "Mr. Haggis has stated his will to remain in Italy until his total innocence is definitively proven."
According to multiple sources, the alleged victim who pressed charges, is a British woman who is considerably younger than the 69-year-old filmmaker. She is believed to be either in her 30s or early 40s. She and Haggis briefly intersected at the end of April at the Monte-Carlo Comedy Film Festival, where Haggis was presiding over the jury.
Haggis and the alleged victim subsequently communicated via Instagram and text messages, and the alleged victim arrived via a low-cost airline on Sunday, June 12, in Ostuni, where Haggis was scheduled to hold several masterclasses at the nascent Allora Fest film festival of which he was one of the organizers.
During the course of the next days, during which the woman and Haggis slept in the same hotel room, Haggis allegedly "forced the young woman, known by him from some time ago, to submit to sexual relations," according to a written statement issued by prosecutor Antonio Negro on Sunday (June 19), which announced that Haggis had been detained.
Haggis, who wrote "Million Dollar Baby" and co-wrote and directed "Crash," both of which he won an Oscar for, was sued in 2018 by publicist Haleigh Breest, who alleged that he had violently raped her after a premiere in 2013. The suit prompted three additional women to come forward with their own sexual misconduct accusations against Haggis, who has vehemently denied the claims. The trial is still pending due to COVID delays.
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