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'Crash' director Paul Haggis was arrested on sexual assault charges in Italy

Screenwriter, producer and director of film and television Paul Haggis, pictured in 2017, has been arrested in Italy on sexual assault charges.
Andres Iglesias Rodriguez
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Screenwriter, producer and director of film and television Paul Haggis, pictured in 2017, has been arrested in Italy on sexual assault charges.

Oscar-winning film director and screenwriter Paul Haggis is being detained in Italy on sexual assault and aggravated personal injury charges.

Italian police arrested Haggis on Sunday for allegedly raping a woman in Ostuni, in southern Italy, over a period of two days.

The woman was found in a local airport, allegedly left by Haggis in the morning despite her "precarious physical and psychological conditions," according to prosecutors Antonio Negro and Livia Orlando. Airport staff alerted the police and took her to a hospital, La Presse and other Italian media outlets reported.

Prosecutors have not yet disclosed her nationality or age.

Haggis' attorney denied the accusations. "Under Italian Law, I cannot discuss the evidence. That said, I am confident that all allegations will be dismissed against Mr. Haggis. He is totally innocent, and willing to fully cooperate with the authorities so the truth comes out quickly," lawyer Priya Chaudhry told NPR in an email.

Haggis has been in Italy to teach master classes at an upcoming film festival that commences on Tuesday. In a statement, the directors of the Allora Fest said the news was shocking and expressed solidarity with the woman involved. They also said they immediately removed Haggis from participating in the event.

The 69-year-old Canadian director won Oscar awards for writing the 2005 Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby and directing the following year's best picture winner Crash.

This isn't the first time Haggis has been implicated in a sexual assault case. In 2018, Haggis was sued by a publicist who accused him of assaulting her after a film premiere. During the civil trial, which has been delayed because of COVID, three other women came forward accusing Haggis of sexual misconduct. Haggis has denied the claims.

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