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Paul Haggis attends first hearing into sexual assault allegations in Italy; Attorney’s Stake Statement

Canadian director Paul Haggis claimed his innocence today [Wednesday] during an initial court appearance in the southern Italian port city of Brindisi, where he is answering questions related to allegations of sexual assault.

Haggis has been under house arrest in a hotel outside Brindisi since Sunday following allegations from an unnamed British woman that he subjected her to non-consensual sex for several days.

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“Paul Haggis explained how things went. He declared himself totally innocent, as he did during the immediate arrest,” the director’s Italian lawyer Michele Laforgia told reporters after the hearing.

Italian media broadcast footage of the Oscar-winning filmmaker arriving in court, where he was greeted by a melee of reporters, photographers and videographers.

Dressed in a dark tie and suit with a black backpack slung over his shoulder, he climbed the steps. He didn’t stop to speak to reporters, just saying a polite “excuse me” as he headed for security.

Haggis had traveled to southern Italy to attend the Allora film festival, a new event in the village of Ostuni outside Brindisi, funded by Covid-19 stimulus funds.

According to local media, Haggis first met his accuser at a film festival in Monte Carlo in April and has been in regular contact with her since then, which resulted in the invitation to Ostuni.

According to the reports, the woman was later discovered in an “obvious state of confusion” at the local airport on Sunday, where she was helped and then taken to Brindisi police headquarters, where officers accompanied her to a hospital room for an examination.

Local prosecutors Antonio Negro and Livia Orlando said Haggis was being investigated over allegations of “aggravated sexual abuse and injury”.

Laforgia today contradicts this version of the facts.

“The relationship he had with this woman is totally consensual during these three days spent together in Ostuni. We have clarified… even contrary to what is supposed in the charges, that there are no injuries and no signs of violence,” he told reporters as they left the court.

“I believe that they misinterpreted the report from the emergency department, where the girl was visited following the complaint. Now we await the decision of the judge who will have to rule on both the arrest and the request of the prosecution which is to maintain the house arrest pending urgent investigations, ”continued Laforgia.

He noted that Haggis had been fully cooperative with the authorities and expressed his willingness to remain in Italy until his complete innocence was finally established.

“Naturally, his life depends on it both here in Italy and in the United States where he resides,” Laforgia said.

The charges from Italy come at a sensitive time for Haggis who is facing a legal case in New York, following a 2017 lawsuit filed by event publicist Haleigh Breest, who accused the director of raping her after they met at a party in 2013.

A trial date has yet to be set due to a Covid-related backlog. Since Breest went public, four other women have made similar allegations.

Investigating Judge Vilma Gilli, who conducted Wednesday’s hearing, will listen to arguments from defense attorneys and prosecutors and then deliberate on Haggis’ continued detention. A decision is expected later today.

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