Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis began his defense Friday in a civil rape trial against him with a former Scientologist testifying how the church allegedly “destroyed” its enemies.
Lawyers for accuser Haleigh Breest rested their case in the second week of trial where Breest — a former publicist — claims she was raped by the “Crash” director at his Soho apartment Jan. 31, 2013.
Haggis, who defected from the Church of Scientology in 2009 after 30 years, has said he intends to present evidence that Breest’s claim was cooked up as part of the church’s vendetta against him for speaking out.
Haggis’ friend Michael Rinder, 67, told jurors he had headed Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs — the division that, in part, aimed to silence anyone who criticized the church.
The Australian-born Rinder, who “escaped” the church in 2007, said his office would employ “spies” and private investigators to “silence at all costs” anyone who opposed the institution — referred to as a “suppressive person” by the church.
The office had a budget that ranged from $1-2 million a week to $1-2 million a month, Rinder said.
Rinder said the church’s policy, “fair game,” meant it would track down what church enemies “are seeking to protect and what their weaknesses are and you threaten them with it.
“Effectively, you blackmail the person into silence.”
The church would carry out its campaigns against opponents in “covert operations” so the institution didn’t leave its fingerprints behind, Rinder testified.
“Scientology will never admit to it,” Rinder said.
Rinder wrote a book about Scientology and has a podcast with “King of Queens” actress Leah Remini — another former Scientologist.
Rinder said the church has attempted to silence and discredit him by having him followed, mounting false claims to ruin his reputation and using his daughter, who is still a member.
“Are you aware of the Church of Scientology ever stopping its campaign against its enemies?” Haggis’ lawyer Seth Zuckerman asked.
“Not until they are destroyed,” Rinder replied.
Still, Rinder admitted he’d never spoken to Haggis about what happened the night of the alleged rape and admitted he was no longer in the church or working in its Office of Special Affairs when Haggis left. And he conceded he had no personal knowledge of the Office of Special Affairs’ alleged involvement in Breest’s case.
Earlier Friday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Sabrina Kraus told jurors both Breest and Haggis’ camps had agreed Breest was never a member of Scientology.
Haggis first spoke out about the church in a 2011 New Yorker article, and he was featured in the 2015 HBO documentary “Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief.”
Breest’s lawyer Ilann Maazel told reporters on Friday that “the whole scientology defense is embarrassing. It’s absurd.”
Jurors have heard testimony from four additional women who claimed they were sexually assaulted or raped by Haggis.
The trial was set to resume Monday.
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