Director Paul Haggis detained in Italian hotel ahead of sexual assault hearing

Director Paul Haggis is being held in a hotel room in southern Italy awaiting a court hearing as prosecutors continue their investigation into a woman’s allegations that he had sex with her without his 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 serious abuse. sexual violence and aggravated bodily harm.

They described the alleged victim as a “young foreign woman”, while state television and other Italian media said she was English.

Haggis came to the tourist town of Ostuni to take part in an arts festival which begins on Tuesday and is being held in a hotel room there, media said.

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 Associated Press that while she could not 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 Sunday announcing that Haggis had been detained, prosecutors said that “according to the (investigative) evidence collected, Haggis allegedly “forced the young woman, whom he had known for some time, to submit to sexual relations”.

The statement also said the woman was “forced to see a doctor.”

Prosecutors alleged that after a few days “of non-consensual intercourse, 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 a director, producer and screenwriter.

He won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2006 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 lawyer demanded a payment of nine million dollars (£7.3million) 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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