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Sunday 16 December 2018

Four women accuse filmmaker Paul Haggis of sexual misconduct

Paul Haggis has denied allegations of sexual misconduct (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese, File)
Paul Haggis has denied allegations of sexual misconduct (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese, File)

A civil lawsuit charging Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis with raping a publicist has prompted three additional women to come forward with their own sexual misconduct accusations.

They include another publicist who says he forced her to perform oral sex, then raped her.

One of the other women speaking out told The Associated Press Haggis tried to sexually assault her.

"I need to be inside you," she recalled him saying, before she managed to run away.

Another of the new accusers said Haggis held down her arms, forcibly kissed her on a street corner, then followed her into a taxi.

When asked about the new accusations, Christine Lepera, lawyer for the 64-year-old screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby and Crash, said: "He didn't rape anybody."

Haggis has denied the original rape allegation in a counter-complaint to the lawsuit, and said the accuser and her lawyer had demanded a 9 million dollar payment (£6.6 million) to avoid legal action, which he said was extortion.

The civil lawsuit was filed on December 15 in Manhattan, and the other three women later contacted the plaintiff's lawyers, and spoke to the AP on condition they were not identified for fear of retribution.

In separate interviews, the three new accusers provided detailed accounts of encounters they say occurred between 1996 and 2015.

The women were early in their careers in the entertainment business when, they say, the Hollywood heavyweight lured them to private or semi-private places under the guise of discussing productions or a subject of a professional nature.

The new rape accuser said she was a 28-year-old publicist working on a television show being produced by Haggis in 1996 when he called to ask to review photos from the show that night in her office.

When Haggis arrived, she said, everyone else had left the office for the night and he insisted they speak in a back office. She said Haggis began kissing her as soon as they walked into the room.

She said she resisted, but Haggis made her perform oral sex, then pushed her to the floor and raped her.

When she returned to work the next day, she was so scared of Haggis that she asked a friend to come to work with her, she said.

She said she considered calling the police but feared that no one would believe her and worried that Haggis could end her career.

But she felt inspired to come forward after seeing Haggis' photo and a news story about the lawsuit, amid the growing #MeToo movement of women speaking out about sexual misconduct by powerful men in Hollywood, politics, the media and other industries.

The original plaintiff accuses Haggis of raping her after he lured her back to his apartment in Manhattan following a film premiere in 2013.

The third accuser was in her 30s when she met Haggis at his Los Angeles office in the late 2000s to pitch him a potential television show.

She said he had a bottle of wine open on his desk, and when she sat down on a couch in his office, Haggis told her he had an arrangement with his wife to have extramarital relationships.

Panicked, she said, she looked for her car keys and an escape route, as Haggis came around a table and tried to kiss her.

She ran to her car. Haggis followed her outside, but she managed to get in and drive off before calling her sister and several friends to tell them what happened, she said.

The fourth accuser said Haggis forcibly kissed her, then followed her into her taxi, in 2015 in Canada. She was in her late 20s at the time and knew Haggis from film events.

She said when the taxi arrived at her flat, Haggis threw money at the driver, chased her and kissed her again before she was able to get into her residence and shut the door.

After years of working in television, Haggis broke out in the mid-2000s when he became the first screenwriter to write back-to-back best picture winners, Million Dollar Baby and Crash, which he also directed.

AP

Press Association

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