Jury selection begins for director Paul Haggis’ trial in New York

The jury selection process is set to begin Monday in the lawsuit accusing Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis of raping a New York City publicist nearly a decade ago.

Accused Haley Priest sued the “Crash” filmmaker in 2017, alleging he raped her in his Soho apartment after the film’s premiere on January 13, 2013.

Haggis was smiling as he made his way to the Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday as his civil trial — in which he faces monetary damages and has no jail time — began with jury selection.

The seemingly energetic director wore a black suit, light blue shirt, and black tie for the proceedings. Opening remarks are scheduled to begin Wednesday and the two-week trial is set to begin.

The civil trial – where Haggis faces monetary damages and no prison sentence – is scheduled to last nearly two weeks. Opening remarks are due to begin on Wednesday.

Paul Haggis arrives for jury selection in his sexual assault trial.
Alec Tabak
Paul Haggis
Paul Haggis was seen with his attorney in court.
Stephen Hirsch

The case will rise and fall on the opposing testimony of the parties as to whether the meeting was consensual.

The 69-year-old “Million Dollar Baby” screenwriter is listed as a defense witness.

The accused is due to testify – as are four other women who have accused Haggis of sexual assault but have no cases against him.

Halle's Boobs
Haggis’ accuser, Haley Priest, was seen in court.
Stephen Hirsch
Paul Haggis
Haggis, pictured today in court, and Priest have been bitterly courting for nearly five years.
Stephen Hirsch

Priest and Haggis have been embroiled bitterly in court for nearly five years — including squabbling over testimony and the evidence to be presented to the jury.

Priest was 26 years old and working as an advocate who planned the movie’s premiere and parties in the Big Apple when she was allegedly raped by the film maker, according to her suit in December 2017.

The suit alleged that Haggis, after attending a movie premiere on the Upper West Side as a celebrity guest, offered Brest a ride home at the end of the night.

Brest - publicist - claims that the meeting took place on January 13, 2013 after the premiere of the film Haggis as a celebrity guest.
Brest – publicist – claims that the meeting took place on January 13, 2013 after the premiere of the film Haggis as a celebrity guest.
Stephen Hirsch

But rather than take her home, Haggis allegedly pressured Priest to come to his apartment on Mercer Street for a drink – because she protested that they went to the pub instead, she claimed.

Priest says in the lawsuit that she gave in to his pressure because Haggis “was a powerful member of the Hollywood elite who could influence her career”.

The Oscar-winning director confirmed that the meeting was consensual.
The Oscar-winning director confirmed that the meeting was consensual.
Photo by Andres Iglesias Rodriguez/Getty Images

She claimed that as soon as she walked in, Haggis started kissing her while she was telling him no over and over again.

The lawsuit alleged that Haggis forced Priest into his bedroom and “violently” tried to take off his tights, which he eventually did. He then forced her to have oral sex, forced his fingers inside her, said he liked anal sex and then raped her, according to the lawsuit’s charges.

Haggis does not dispute that the couple had sex, but confirmed that the meeting was consensual.

Priest also claimed that Haggis has a history of sexual assault including four other alleged victims – which she says will help make her case.

Haley Priest filed a lawsuit in 2017 accusing Paul Haggis of raping her once in his Manhattan apartment.
Priest (left) filed a lawsuit in 2017 accusing Haggis of raping her once in his Manhattan apartment.
Photo by Neil Rasmus/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Last month, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Sabrina Krause — who will preside over the trial — ruled that jurors can hear testimony from other women.

However, Krause prohibited testimony from the recent arrest of Haggis for rape in Italy because “the allegations have not been proven and were deemed insufficient to hold. [Haggis] under arrest,” according to her decision.

The judge also ruled that Haggis will be allowed to present evidence that he believes will prove that the Church of Scientology was behind what he claims are false accusations of sexual assault against him.

Haggis – who left Scientology in 2009 after 30 years – claims that the church retaliated against him for speaking out against it.

Haggis was also accused of sexually assaulting four other women.
Four other women have accused Haggis of sexual assault and he is expected to testify.
Photo by Toby Canham/Getty Images

Krause said Haggis was entitled to make his own defensive argument that the church was “seeking to implicate Haggis in destructive and false allegations about women prior to Brest’s allegations” — and that her allegations were part of the same alleged scheme.

However, the judge said Haggis could not bring to court his since-rejected case against Priest alleging that she had made false accusations against him in an attempt to extort him for $9 million.

Haggis also can’t mention the fact that he submitted the racketeering allegations to the Manhattan attorney general’s office – which never brought a case against Priest – the judge ruled.

Lawyers on both sides told The Post that their clients are excited for the trial to begin and the truth to be revealed.

Priest’s attorney Zoe Salzman said: “Halle Priest has had to wait many years for Paul Haggis to be held accountable and we are now eager to reveal the truth at trial.”

Haggis’ attorney, Priya Choudhury, said her client “suffered a relentless campaign of public humiliation and falsely portrayed him as some sort of Harvey Weinstein character,” while reiterating his blackmail allegations and that he brought those allegations to the DA’s office.

“Having lost his reputation, career and livelihood, Paul Haggis’ powerful and well-funded enemies nearly succeeded in destroying him,” Chaudhry said in a statement.

“On Monday, after five years of trying to take his case to trial, he will finally have the opportunity to present the evidence he was denied disclosure and will clear his name.”

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