Article

New York Supreme Court Denies Motion to Set Aside Rape Judgment Against Paul Haggis

In a victory for plaintiff Haleigh Breest and the principle that perpetrators of sexual assault must be held accountable, the New York State Supreme Court has denied Paul Haggis’ motion to set aside the jury verdict finding him civilly liable for raping Ms. Breest and to overturn the jury’s award of $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Haggis argued that the jury’s verdict should be set aside under CPLR §4404(a) because errors by the Court deprived him of a fair trial and, alternatively, that the jury’s $10 million damages award was excessive.

In denying Haggis’ motion in its entirety, the Court explained that judicial rulings are not prejudicial simply because they involve evidence of plaintiff’s guilt and noted that most of the Haggis’ motion “essentially seeks re-argument of prior issues which were briefed by counsel and determined by the Court.”

“The primary evidence in the case was the testimony of the Plaintiff and Defendant,” wrote the Court. “At the end of the day, the jury credited Plaintiff’s testimony, which described a forced and unwanted sexual assault and rape, and found Defendant’s version of a kittenish and flirtatious Betty Boop character, who bragged about her skills in fellatio, lacking in credibility.”

In upholding both the compensatory and punitive damages awarded by the jury after a 17-day trial, the Court regarded Ms. Breest’s “serious and long-lasting injuries” as well as comparable cases in which similar punitive damages were awarded.

“The #MeToo movement has significantly altered the public conscience on these issues in the years since it began in 2017,” the Court wrote in its opinion. “When most of the cases cited by Defendant were decided, the public, juries, and courts were much more likely to minimize the crime and the impact of rape. Insofar as the jury’s award in Ms. Breest’s case reflects the more enlightened collective views of today, it should not be disregarded or minimized.”

Ms. Breest is represented by ECBAWM partners Ilann M. Maazel and Zoe Salzman, who issued a joint statement. “We are pleased that Judge Kraus upheld the jury’s $10 million verdict in this case. The Judge correctly recognized that the jury’s verdict reflected how the #MeToo movement has significantly altered the public conscience about rape, and has even further validated the testimony of our brave client. This opinion is an important precedent for all survivors of sexual assault.” Jonathan Abady and Sara Luz Estela also represent Ms. Breest.

Article

Gary Lawrence Murder Conviction Tossed Based on Brady Violations

Gary Lawrence, one of three young Black men wrongfully convicted in 1993 of the murder of Hofstra football coach Joseph Healy who then served over twenty-four years in prison, has just had his conviction overturned. With the help of ECBAWM, one of Mr. Lawrence’s co-defendants, Christopher Ellis, had his conviction overturned in 2021.

Relying on questionable and uncertain witness testimony and a coerced confession, a jury convicted Mr. Lawrence of murder and attempted robbery. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms totaling 32 ½ years to life imprisonment. The police developed at least 11 different leads in the case. Shockingly, they kept both the leads and the investigations into each of these leads secret from Mr. Lawrence and his co-defendants. These investigations included detailed notes and in some instances polygraph examination results.

After his arrest, Mr. Lawrence was questioned for approximately 19 hours without food, drink, or sleep. Ultimately the police were able to coerce a confession from Mr. Lawrence – but the facts as laid out in the statement did not match the facts of the murder.

“This Court finds that given the information contained in the memo book notes and the unnamed homicide file, the sheer volume thereof, the new suspects, potential witnesses, and leads contained therein, the undisclosed evidence is clearly material,” the Court explained in its ruling. “The Brady violations were substantial, and because of them the People failed to provide access to meaningful witnesses and information.”

“We are pleased that the Court vacated Gary’s unjust conviction,” said ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel, counsel for Mr. Lawrence. “Gary served his complete sentence in prison and on parole and has been a solid citizen ever since he was released in 2015. He has always maintained his innocence for this horrible crime. He sends his condolences to the family of Mr. Healy for the unimaginable loss they have suffered.”

Press
“Second Hofstra conviction in 1990 killing of assistant football coach overturned, court papers show,” Newsday

Article

NYLJ Publishes “The Middle Finger and the Constitution” by ECBAWM Partner Ilann Maazel

In “The Middle Finger and the Constitution,” his most recent column for the New York Law Journal, ECBAWM partner Ilann Maazel unpacks the Second Circuit’s recent decision in Radwan v. Manuel.

Noriana Radwan was a soccer player at the University of Connecticut (UConn) when, during a post-game celebration, she raised her middle finger to a television camera. Although she apologized, UConn canceled her athletic scholarship. Radwan sued, alleging First Amendment, Due Process, and Title IX claims. The district court dismissed all of Radwan’s claims on summary judgment.

On appeal, the Second Circuit reviewed issues of free speech, qualified immunity, procedural due process, and sex discrimination. In his column, Maazel explains the Court’s reasoning and how it arrived at its conclusion that Radwan’s case may proceed to trial to resolve the factual question of whether there are “sufficiently similar” incidents with male athletes that would support a claim of sex discrimination under Title IX.

Maazel also questions the repercussions of the Court’s ruling. “Whatever happens to Radwan’s case, however, Radwan leaves us in First Amendment stasis and a familiar qualified immunity quagmire,” he writes. “We can only hope that Congress or the Supreme Court will one day let plaintiffs hold public officials accountable when they break the law, clearly established or not.”

Article

Anthony Sims Freed After 25 Years

Anthony Sims has been granted parole and freed from prison after serving over 25 years for a murder he did not commit. Anthony was wrongfully convicted of murdering Li Run Chen at a Brooklyn restaurant; evidence that was withheld from the jury exonerated Anthony and points to Julius Graves – the prosecution’s only eyewitness to the shooting – as the killer.

In an interview with NBC New York’s Sarah Wallace, ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel, one of Anthony’s attorneys, explained what led to his unlawful conviction. “The NYPD basically ignored any evidence that exonerated Anthony, and the most glaring example is when an independent witness saw Julius Graves exit the restaurant with a gun right after the shooting, told that to the police, and the police kept that information, apparently, to themselves.”

Prosecutors have labeled two witnesses who testified that the police fabricated interview reports as “incredible” and continue to back Graves’ version of the events. “They seem to want to stand behind this man who has lied repeatedly under oath in different statements over the years and it’s frustrating,” said another of Anthony’s attorneys, ECBAM partner Sam Shapiro.

Anthony’s motion to vacate his conviction is currently pending before the Hon. Danny Chun in Kings County. A decision is expected in January.

Keisha Sims, Anthony’s wife, told NBC New York she will never stop fighting. “Not just only for my husband, but there’s a lot of Anthonys out there.”

ECBAWM attorneys Ilann M. Maazel, Sam Shapiro, and Nairuby L. Beckles, along with co-counsel Thomas Hoffman and Jonathan Hiles, represent Anthony Sims. More information about the case is available on the Free Anthony Sims website.

Article

ECBAWM Attorneys Earn Recognition from ALM for Jury Verdict in Sexual Assault Case

ECBAWM’s representation of Haleigh Breest in her sexual assault case against director Paul Haggis earned attorneys Zoe Salzman, Ilann M. Maazel, Jonathan Abady, Sara Luz Estela, and Noel León and paralegal Sophia Attie “Shout Out” honors in American Lawyer Media’s Litigator of the Week column. A jury found Haggis civilly liable for raping Ms. Breest and awarded a total judgment of $10 million.

Article

ECBAWM Wins $10M Jury Verdict in Sexual Assault Case

A jury has found film director Paul Haggis civilly liable for raping Haleigh Breest, a film industry publicist, in 2013. The jury heard testimony from Ms. Breest as well as from four other women who also accused Haggis of sexual misconduct.

Haggis was ordered to pay $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages, for a total verdict of $10 million.

Despite Haggis’ attempt to have the case dismissed in 2018, ECBAWM obtained a landmark ruling enforcing New York City’s Victims of Gender Motivated Violence Protection Act and allowing the case to proceed. The New York State Supreme Court’s decision was upheld on appeal.

ECBAWM also won Ms. Breest’s motion to compel Haggis to provide a sample of his DNA for comparison against a sample left in Ms. Breest’s tights.

“We’re pleased to see justice served for Ms. Breest,” said Ilann M. Maazel and Zoe Salzman who represented Ms. Breest, together with ECBAWM partner Jonathan S. Abady, associates Sara Luz Estela and Noel León, paralegal Sophia Attie, and former-associate Emma Freeman. Dan Cooper served as a trial consultant in the case.

“After the jury heard a mountain of undeniable evidence against Mr. Haggis, they did the right thing and held him accountable for his deplorable behavior. We commend Ms. Breest for the bravery it took to come forward. She stood up for herself and for all women,” said Maazel and Salzman.

Press
“Jury tells filmmaker Haggis to pay $10M total in rape suit,” Associated Press, also published by NBC News, CTV News, CBC News and The Hollywood Reporter
“Paul Haggis Fined Additional $2.5 Million in Punitive Damages in Civil Rape Trial,” Variety
“Oscar-winner Paul Haggis must pay total of $10 million in civil rape case,” Reuters
“‘Crash’ director Paul Haggis must pay $10M to rape accuser Haleigh Breest,” New York Post
“Paul Haggis Rape Trial Jury Tacks on $2.5 Million in Punitive Damages, Bringing Victim’s Award to $10 Million,” The Wrap
“Paul Haggis Ordered to Pay $2.5 Million More in Rape Trial Verdict,” Just Jared
“Filmmaker Paul Haggis ordered to pay total of $10M in rape lawsuit,” Fox News
“Paul Haggis Civil Trial: Jury Awards $2.5M In Punitive Damages; Oscar Winner Says He Will Appeal & “Die Clearing My Name” – Update,” Deadline
“Jury orders Oscar-winner Paul Haggis to pay additional $2.5m in rape lawsuit,” The Guardian
“Church of Scientology is on opposite ends of two celebrity rape cases in L.A., New York,” Los Angeles Times
“‘Broke’ Paul Haggis Must Pay Another $2.5M to Rape Accuser,” Daily Beast
“Jury Says Paul Haggis Raped Woman After Film Premiere,” New York Times
“Paul Haggis, director of ‘Crash,’ ordered to pay $7.5 million in rape case,” Washington Post
“Jury orders Filmmaker Paul Haggis to pay $7.5M in rape suit,” Associated Press, also published in the Wall Street Journal
“Paul Haggis Found Liable On All Counts In New York Rape Civil Trial; Jury Awards Millions In Damages; Oscar Winner Vows To “Fight To Clear My Name,” Deadline
“Paul Haggis Loses New York Civil Rape Case, Liable for $7.5 Million in Damages,” The Wrap
“Paul Haggis Found Liable on All Counts in Civil Rape Trial,” Variety
“Jury finds filmmaker Paul Haggis liable for rape of publicist, awarding her $7.5 million in compensatory damages,” Insider
“Oscar-Winning Writer Hit With $7.5M Rape Verdict In NY,” Law360
“‘Crash’ director Paul Haggis loses rape suit, owes $7.5M in damages to victim Haleigh Breest,” New York Post
“Film-maker Paul Haggis ordered to pay $7.5m to woman accusing him of rape,” The Guardian
“Filmmaker Paul Haggis is ordered to pay at least $7.5 million after being found liable in a sexual assault case involving a former publicist,” CNN
“Paul Haggis: Filmmaker ordered to pay $7.5m in rape suit,” BBC
“Paul Haggis accuser speaks out after director is found liable in $7.5 million rape lawsuit,” Fox News
“Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis found liable for raping woman in 2013, ordered to pay $7.5 million,” The Week
“Director Paul Haggis Found Liable in N.Y. Rape Case, Jury Awards $7.5 Million in Damages,” People
“Judge Orders Paul Haggis To Shell Out $7.5 Million After Director Was Found Liable In Rape Case,” OK! Magazine
“Paul Haggis Loses Civil Rape Case, Ordered to Pay Accuser $7.5 Million,” Rolling Stone
“Oscar-winner Paul Haggis ordered to pay $7.5 mln in civil rape case,” Reuters

Article

Federal Lawsuit Over Disability Discrimination and Severe Mistreatment at Brooklyn Home for People with Disabilities Settles for $2.25 Million

The family of an autistic and disabled man has agreed to a $2.25 million settlement in a civil rights lawsuit against Eihab Human Services, Inc., an operator of homes and other programs for people with disabilities. The lawsuit alleged Eihab abused, neglected, and almost killed the disabled man. The case was litigated for a decade until the settlement was reached in the middle of a nearly week-long jury trial in a New York federal court. The judge who presided over the case approved the settlement on October 13, 2022.

ECBAWM was assisted by noted jury consultant Dan Cooper in preparation for the trial.

The plaintiff, “A.W.”, the mother of “B.W.”, the young man, filed the lawsuit on behalf of her son in 2012. The complaint alleges that while under Eihab’s care, B.W. was rushed to the hospital six different times, nearly choked to death on a corncob, and had to have a feeding tube inserted after his weight sunk below 100 pounds.

“I’m so thankful we have finally been able to achieve some justice for my son,” said A.W.

“After ten long years, we have a measure of justice for B.W. and his family and accountability for Eihab,” said ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel. “We are gratified that B.W. and his family finally have some closure after this terrible period in their lives.”

Article

17 ECBAWM Attorneys Named to 2022 Super Lawyers Lists

The firm is pleased to announce that 17 of its attorneys have been named to the 2022 Super Lawyers lists.

Firm partners Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Richard D. Emery, Debra L. Greenberger, Daniel J. Kornstein, Hal R. Lieberman, Ilann M. Maazel, Zoe Salzman, Sam Shapiro, Earl S. Ward, and O. Andrew F. Wilson were named 2022 Super Lawyers.

Associates David Berman, Nick Bourland, Andrew Jondahl, Vivake Prasad, and Max Selver were named 2022 Super Lawyers Rising Stars.

The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found on the Super Lawyers website.

Article

ECBAWM Attorneys Earn Recognition from ALM for OSU Case

ECBAWM’s representation of the plaintiffs in Snyder-Hill v. The Ohio State University earned Ilann M. Maazel, Debbie Greenberger, and Marissa Benavides runner-up honors in American Lawyer Media’s Litigator of the Week recognition. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently revived plaintiffs’ claims against OSU stemming from abuse by former OSU physician and athletic team doctor Richard Strauss.

Article

6th Cir Court of Appeals Reinstates Sex Abuse Case Against The Ohio State University

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated the lawsuits of over a hundred sexual abuse survivors against Ohio State University and rejected OSU’s statute of limitation defense.

This decision paves the way for plaintiffs to hold OSU accountable in federal court for the school’s decades-long role in facilitating and concealing the sexual abuse of hundreds of students and others by university physician Dr. Richard Strauss.

In its opinion, the Court explained three independent reasons plaintiffs’ claims should be allowed to proceed. “First, the plaintiffs plausibly allege that they did not know and lacked reason to know that Ohio State caused their injury. Second, they plausibly allege that even if they had investigated further, they could not have learned of Ohio State’s conduct. Third, most plaintiffs plausibly allege that they did not know that they were abused. Alone, each of these grounds is sufficient to delay accrual.”

“For years, Ohio State University hid behind a phony statute of limitations defense to avoid accountability for one of the biggest sexual abuse scandals in the history of American higher education,” said ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel, who argued the appeal on behalf of over a hundred sexual abuse survivors. “Now OSU can finally be held accountable for enabling and covering up decades of abuse.”

Press
“Court ruling revives unsettled lawsuits vs. Ohio State over sexual abuse by late team doctor Richard Strauss,” Associated Press (also published in ESPN.com, The Public’s Radio)
“Strauss Victims Win Appeal, Able to Move Forward with Case Against Ohio State,” The Lantern
“Lawsuits against Ohio State alleging sex abuse by team doctor can move forward,” NBC News
“Judge allows Strauss survivors’ suit against Ohio State to move forward,” NBC4i.com
“Appeals court rules in favor of Strauss victims, revives lawsuits against Ohio State,” The Columbus Dispatch
“’Milestone’ for victims in the Dr. Richard Strauss court battle,” ABC 6

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