Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis has been arrested in southern Italy on suspicion of serious sexual assault, Italian news agencies have reported. Brindisi prosecutors said he was also charged with “grave personal injury and crimes of prejudice to the prejudice of a young foreign woman”.
ANSA and AGI agencies also reported that Mr Haggis, through his lawyer, Michelle LaForgia, has denied the allegations.
“Make enquiries as soon as possible, I am totally innocent,” the Canadian filmmaker said, according to the agencies, who quoted Laforgia. Another lawyer representing Mr Haggis, Priya Chaudhry, issued a statement to various outlets including Variety, saying the director was”totally innocent”.
“A young foreign woman was forced to seek medical care” following the sexual relations, the prosecutors said in the statement.
They said that on Sunday after the non-consensual relations the man accompanied the woman to Brindisi airport, where she was left despite her “precarious physical and psychological conditions.”
An investigative source told Reuters the unidentified young woman will be questioned in the coming 10 days in what is known in Italy as an evidentiary incident, setting out the evidence for a possible future trial.
Haggis, 69, wrote “Million Dollar Baby” and co-wrote and directed “Crash,” both of which he won an Oscar for.
In 2018 he denied accusations of sexual misconduct made by four women, including two who accused him of rape.
Haggis was in Ostuni to hold several masterclasses at the Allora Fest, a new film event being launched by Los Angeles-based Italian journalist Silvia Bizio and Spanish art critic Sol Costales Doulton that is set to run from June 21 to June 26.
The Allora Fest said they “learned with dismay and shock the news,” adding that the festival’s directors “immediately proceeded to remove any participation of the director from the event.”