A judge in the southern Italian city of Lecce has ruled that there are no grounds to further pursue an investigation into allegations that the Oscar-winning Canadian director Paul Haggis had sex with a young woman without her consent.
The court ruled in favor of Haggis late on Friday, Italian news Agency ANSA reported on Saturday.
“After viewing the evidence and hearing arguments from both sides, the District Court of Lecce, an appellate court with three judges, unanimously rejected a prosecutor’s appeal to have Haggis’ house arrest reinstated,” said Haggis’ Italian lawyer Michele Laforgia in a statement issued on Saturday.
Haggis, who won two Oscars for “Crash” and is also known for writing “Million Dollar Baby,” was arrested on June 19 in Ostuni, a location in the southern region of Puglia on the heel of the Italian boot, on charges of sexual assault allegedly inflicted to a 28-year British woman over the course of two days in June.
The 69-year-old director spent 16 days under house arrest in a hotel, before being released from detention.
“Two weeks ago, Judge Vilma Gilli of the Court of Brindisi questioned the alleged victim and then immediately overturned Haggis’ house arrest,” Laforgia said in the statement.
The Prosecutor of Brindisi appealed her decision to the Court of Lecce, where Haggis’ lawyer, presented what he says is “irrefutable and objective evidence that the woman told multiple lies to investigators and the court, with facts and witnesses completely contradicting her story,” the lawyer added.
There was no immediate comment from the alleged victim’s legal team.
Laforgia stated that Haggis’ arrest was the result of a judicial error ansd, based on the evidence, the prosecutors must now close the case. This is expected to happen in the coming weeks, unless new evidence surfaces.
On Friday evening, the Court of Lecce contacted attorneys for both parties to inform them of the court’s decision, rejecting the public prosecutor’s appeal and confirming the decision made by judge Gilli. Four judges have now ruled in favor of Haggis.
“In the coming weeks, the reasons for the decision will be known and, therefore, so will the fate of the judicial proceedings pending in Italy,” Laforgia noted in the statement.
Haggis is also facing court proceedings in the U.S. where he is being sued by film publicist Haleigh Breest, who alleges that Haggis raped her in January 2013. Breest originally filed suit in December 2017, although proceedings were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A trial date has now been set for Oct. 11 in Manhattan. Haggis says the encounter with Breest, which allegedly took place after a premiere, was consensual.