Leah Remini Defends Paul Haggis in Testimony: He’s a ‘Victim’ of Scientology
Leah Remini implied the Church of Scientology is behind rape allegations against Paul Haggis while she appeared as a character witness on Monday in the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s ongoing civil rape trial.
“Men and women who have been raped absolutely deserve justice. But in this case, it’s absolutely Paul who is the victim here,” Remini told jurors. The trial is taking place in New York City, but Remini appeared via video chat from her Los Angeles home.
“The King of Queens” star and former Scientologist didn’t offer much in the way of evidence beyond her assertions that the controversial religion is orchestrating the attacks on Haggis. Her narrative is at odds with one that both sides have largely agreed on — namely, that Haggis’s vocal criticism of Scientology has no connection with the accuser who filed a lawsuit against him. Haggis is in court to defend himself in a civil rape lawsuit brought by a former film publicist Haleigh Breest. She alleges the filmmaker forced her to perform oral sex on him and then raped her in his Soho apartment after attending a Cinema Society event in 2013.
While both sides have told Judge Sabrina Kraus that there’s “no evidence” to suggest Breest is connected to the Church of Scientology, defense attorneys used Remini’s testimony to argue that Haggis has been targeted by the religious organization after publicly breaking with it in 2011. He had spent 35 years as a member of the church.
Remini was also a prominent member of the church for 40 years before leaving in 2013. The actor now considers herself an “advocate for people who have been victimized by Scientology’s policies.” She told jurors that the church has published dirt on “every single person that has ever spoken out against Scientology,” including herself and Haggis.
“Scientology was heavy on the attack of Paul since leaving,” Remini said. “And since this case, they have gone silent.”
While the sitcom star did not provide any direct connection between Breest’s lawsuit and Scientology, she claimed that auditors have been able to manipulate individuals into believing they were molested. Remini said Jane Doe No. 1, the first of four women to anonymously testify in the trial and accuse Haggis of assault, “has a Scientologist name” that “sounds familiar” from her time with the church.
In cross examination, attorneys for Breest pressed Remini on the basis of her claims. She acknowledged she has no “personal knowledge” of a connection between Scientology and the allegations against Haggis.
She did, however, paint a picture of an organization that was fiercely protective to the point of vindictiveness. Remini highlighted how the church has persistently accused her of “some pretty heinous things” such as murder, abusive behavior and bigotry. The actor has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Church of Scientology, producing the documentary series “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” about her experiences and writing a memoir called “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology.”
Another method employed by the Church of Scientology to destroy its enemies, according to Remini, is to threaten multiple nuisance lawsuits. The church has no intention of winning the legal actions, they just want to drain the finances of their adversaries, she claims. Remini claimed she has been threatened “over and over again” with lawsuits that required her to spend a significant amount of money on legal fees.
“One of the policies of Scientology is that the purpose of a lawsuit is not to win, but to harass,” Remini said. “You would have to retain lawyers, and that would cost a lot of money. The purpose of this is to have you financially ruined so that the last thing you would want to do is enter a battle with Scientology.”
As Remini discussed the legal ramifications of the “Scientology fear game,” Haggis took his glasses off and started wiping away tears. The Oscar-winning filmmaker, best known for his work on “Crash” and “Million Dollar Baby,” said he has been nearly bankrupted by legal fees and has been unable to find work since Breest filed her lawsuit in 2017. Breest’s legal team is seeking an undisclosed dollar amount in the ongoing civil rape trial, which is set to conclude by the end of the week. Both sides are expected to make their closing arguments on Wednesday.
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