Paul Haggis Must Face 'Hate Crime' Accusation

Haleigh Breest's accusation against him can stand, court rules
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2019 12:30 PM CST
Paul Haggis Must Face 'Hate Crime' Accusation
In this Sept. 6, 204 file photo, director Paul Haggis poses for a photo in Toronto during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese, File)

(Newser) – A movie director's alleged rape of a colleague is now an alleged hate crime. On Thursday, a New York appeals court ruled that accuser Haleigh Breest can proceed with her claim that Paul Haggis perpetrated a gender-motivated hate crime when he allegedly raped her in 2013, per the Hollywood Reporter. "Malice or ill will based on gender is apparent from the alleged commission of the act itself," says the decision. "Animus inheres where consent is absent." The ruling upholds an earlier decision by the trial judge that Breest's gender-violence claim could stand, Variety notes. At issue is a legal struggle that followed the US Supreme Court's 2000 decision to strike down part of the Violence Against Women Act—the part that allows survivors to seek civil claims in federal court.

Quickly filling the gap, New York City Council passed the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law (VGM) that same year. But ensuing rape cases—like the singer Kesha's against Dr. Luke, or Lukasz Gottwald, in 2016—didn't allow the "hate crime" accusation to proceed. This time, it will, a decision Breest's lawyers are calling "a historic ruling" that ensures the VGM "offers real protection to victims of sexual assault." In a win for Haggis, the court struck sexual-assault claims in the publicist's suit from three anonymous women, saying they weren't needed to establish gender-based animus. Haggis maintains his innocence and accuses Breest's lawyers of hiding "critical evidence," per the New York Post. (Read more about rape accusations against Haggis.)

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