Paul Haggis’ defense wins right to subpoena former Scientologist Leah Remini as a witness in his rape trial

Former Scientologist Leah Remini could testify in director Paul Haggis’ rape trial this afternoon after a dramatic prosecution dispute broke out in the courtroom.

Just before 11 a.m., Hon. Judge Sabrina Kraus released the jury to consider the possibility of Haggis’ friend and Scientology whistleblower Leah Remini taking the stand.

Kraus expressed concerns king of queens’ star’s testimony could be cumulative or repetitive, following testimony given by other former Scientologists at the trial, including Mike Rinder.

Haggis, a former Scientologist who publicly defected from the religion in 2009 after 35 years as a church member, has argued that the controversial religion sparked the civil rape case against him as part of a coordinated vendetta to get him over his whistleblowing efforts to defame.

In September, Kraus ruled that Haggis could argue that the Church of Scientology fabricated the sexual assault case.

“Leah Remini would test on two main issues,” Haggis’ attorney Priya Chaudhry told Kraus. “She is, if not number one and number two, enemies of Scientology and the things they did to her and the way Scientology did those things – her personal experience of the various tactics that were used, to destroy them.”

Actress Leah Remini signs copies of her new book Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology.

Paul Archuleta

Chaudhry also indicated that Remini would act as a character witness.

“She was born into Scientology and kinda into Hollywood, and in those two communities she’s very familiar with Mr. Haggis’ reputation for aggression or violence against women,” Chaudhry explained.

However, Breest’s attorney Zoe Salzman interjected, echoing the judge’s concerns that Remini’s testimony could be repeated.

“I don’t think Ms. Remini’s personal experience is more relevant to this case than Mr. Rinder’s or Melissa Haggis’ or Mr. Haggis’,” Salzman argued. “None of these witnesses make any connection to Scientology and this case and therefore it is cumulative. We’ve heard over and over again that this is a terrible organization doing terrible things.”

Salzman called the defense teams’ defense of Scientology “scandalous” and referred to the possibility that Remini was used as “duplicate testimony” in the “11th hour” could testify.

However, Kraus sided with Haggis’ legal team and indicated that she would allow Remini to testify if she could do so by the end of the day.

“On these two points. I allow her to testify, but the thing is, if she’s not — if we’re done today — I’m not holding it against her, so, you know, that’s why I wanted her to be ready today because of this trial must be ended.”

Remini and her family were recently struck down by an illness, Haggis’ lawyers said, explaining the sitcom actress “barely could speak” and was “coughing” this week. They said Remini had tested negative for COVID-19.

“I’m not inclined to delay the process because she has the flu,” Kraus fired back, interrupting Chaudhry mid-sentence.

“If she wants to testify with the flu, that’s fine, if she doesn’t want to testify with the flu, that’s fine too,” Kraus added.

Remini would likely testify about Zoom.

Former Scientology spokesman and senior executive Mike Rinder testified on behalf of Haggis last week, telling a jury that Remini, Haggis and himself were among Scientology’s top three public enemies.

Rinder and Remini, who hosted the A&E Emmy-winning series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermathpreviously released a joint statement in which he also accused the Church of Scientology of fabricating the case.

“We expect the next ‘revelations’ about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information gleaned from his Scientology files in the form of more ‘anonymous’ accusers hiding behind a never-disclosing attorney must, who pays their bill,” read their earlier statement.


TV personality Mike Rinder (L) and actress Leah Remini (R) attend the 2018 Emmy Awards.

Paul Archuleta

Haggis was grilled for a second straight day on Friday by defenders representing a former publicist who accused it crash director to rape her in his penthouse suite in 2013.

Attorney Ilann Maazel opened his second day of cross-examination by questioning the Hollywood producer just over the hours before the alleged sexual assault of Haleigh Breest, a former publicist who accused him of killing her at his loft in Manhattan after an after-party to the film’s premiere of raping SoHo in 2013.

Minutes after the cross-examination, Maazel shared a photo of actress Catherine Zeta Jones hugging Haggis at the thriller’s 2013 premiere afterparty side effectsHours before the alleged sexual assault occurred.

“You didn’t think Catherine Zeta Jones was romantically interested in you, did you?” Maazel asked.

“No,” Haggis replied.

“She was just being friendly, you think?” Maazel replied.

“We’re close friends,” Haggis said.

The soirée in question had been attended by a number of A-list celebrities, including Michael Douglas and Jude Law. Breest, who at the time was a former publicist working for the Cinema Society, the organization that hosted the event and regularly hosted red carpet events with a rotating cast of Hollywood fixtures, was 26 at the time.


Paul Haggis called Catherine Zeta-Jones a close friend in court.

Craig Barrit

Haggis testified he first saw Breest shortly after arriving at the after-party, where the couple quickly embraced after the two exchanged what Haggis described as “flirty” work-related emails for a few months.

“We met and hugged, but not at the door,” Haggis said.

“And shortly after that you spoke to Jude Law?” Maazel asked.

“Sometime three or four minutes after that, yes,” Haggis said.

Maazel also discussed his sexual habits with Haggis, whether he used lube, kept condoms in his apartment, his vasectomy, and his interpretation of consent — and particularly the meaning of the word “no.”

“While you were trying to remove Ms. Breest’s pantyhose, Ms. Breest said the word ‘no’, right?:

“Yes, she used the word,” Haggis said.

“She said ‘no’ two or three times, right?” Maazel countered.

“As part of a sentence, yes,” Haggis testified.

“You don’t think she said ‘no’ like you mean ‘no’, right?” Maazel asked.

“She didn’t say ‘no stop,’ that’s right,” Haggis said.

“‘No’ doesn’t always mean ‘no’ to you, is that fair?” Maazel said sharply, to which Haggis’ attorney Priya Chaudhry promptly disagreed, before Judge Sabrina Kraus affirmed.

Haggis and Breest’s attorney then disputed whether the filmmaker had penetrated Breest vaginally with his penis, echoing a statement made in 2019 in which the screenwriter said he had “no recollection” of it, although he did on Thursday definitely denied ever having had sex with her.

“And you told Ms. Breest that you had a vasectomy before you went into her vagina with your penis?” Maazel asked him.

“I can’t answer yes or no to that,” Haggis replied. “I don’t remember penetrating her with my penis. I might have.”

“You don’t know if you said to Ms. Breest, ‘You’re nice and tight’”?

“I don’t think I ever said that,” Haggis replied.

In court on Thursday, Haggis testified that Breest looked “shy” and “cartoonish” during the alleged rendezvous, comparing her behavior to cartoons Betty Boop and Roger rabbit Character Jessica Rabbit. At one point, Breest’s defense team showed images of both cartoon characters to the jury, which consists of six women and three men.

“Are you aware that Betty Boop is considered a sexist and degrading cartoon character?” Maazel asked as a black-and-white image of the animated character, suggestively posing in a short black dress, flashed across the courtroom screens.

Chaudhry disagreed with Maazel’s hearsay investigation, which Judge Sabrina Kraus upheld.

A second, suggestive image of Jessica Rabbit in a red dress, red heels and arm-length purple gloves with her legs crossed was also shown to the jury.

Four other women have also come forward, claiming that Haggis raped or attempted to sexually assault them between 1996 and 2015. On Thursday, the Canadian screenwriter denied the allegations directly on the witness stand.

“I don’t know why women – or anyone else – would lie, make up or twist the truth about things like this,” Haggis told the court Thursday.

Haggis again addressed allegations head-on during his cross-examination on Friday.

Haggis’ family members including his son, three daughters and his ex-wife Dallas Actress Deborah Rennard, as well as other supporters of the million dollar baby Writer, grabbed two bench seats in the courtroom and stoically listened to the Canadian screenwriter’s testimony for the third day in a row.


Paul Haggis and ex-wife, actress Deborah Rennard in 2010.

Charles Eshelman

However, after 13 days of court proceedings, Haggis’ lawyers are struggling to directly link the sexual assault allegations against Breest to the “dirty tricks” of “extreme” religion.

Breest’s attorneys, meanwhile, have described Haggis’ Scientology defense as a smokescreen used to distract the jury.

“[It’s] pathetic, absurd, ridiculous, embarrassing,” Breest’s attorney, Ilann Maazel, told The Daily Beast in court in October. “This whole Scientology idea is an attempt to distract the jury from the real case, the real evidence. This is not a Scientology case. This is a case about what Paul Haggis did to Haleigh Breest.”

The Church of Scientology has also firmly denied Haggis’ allegations that the religious organizations allegedly have ties to the sexual assault case – or have any connection to any of the victims of the case. Karin Pouw, a Scientology spokeswoman, instead accused Haggis of “writing false stories about the church for a decade” to “cover up” his “bad deeds.”

“The Church is not involved in the allegations against Haggis, nor does it have any relationship with the attorneys behind the accusers’ case,” Karin Pouw, a Scientology spokeswoman, said in a statement to The Daily Beast previously. “The Church has nothing to do with the lawsuits against Haggis, nor does it have anything to do with his accusers.”

As the court broke for lunch, Haggis’ lawyers briefly addressed Remini’s possible afternoon testimony – and the possibility that her testimony could be delayed until Monday, despite the judge’s ultimatum that she would comment before the weekend.

“Nothing is definitive,” said Seth Zuckerman, another attorney representing Haggis The daily beast. Paul Haggis’ defense wins right to subpoena former Scientologist Leah Remini as a witness in his rape trial

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