STUDIO CITY (CBSLA) — Asia Argento, one of the leading figures in the #MeToo movement, agreed to pay her own accuser $380,000 to keep him quiet about an alleged sexual assault that took place when the man was still a minor, the New York Times reported Sunday.
According to the paper, Argento paid the money to Jimmy Bennett, a young actor who accused the Italian actor of having sex with him in a California hotel room just two months after he turned 17, to settle a lawsuit. The legal age of consent in California is 18.
Argento, 42, was one of the first women to publicly accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and rape last year. The settlement is reported to have happened just months after the Weinstein accusations were made public.
The Times reported it was sent encrypted information about the dealings between lawyers for Argento and Bennett, including a selfie of the two lying in bed from 2013. As part of the deal, Bennett, now 22, agreed to give Argento the photograph and its copyright, the paper reported.
In the documents, Bennett claims that on May 9, 2013, Argento served him an alcoholic drink at a room in the Marina Del Rey Ritz-Carlton and subsequently performed oral sex on him. The two then had intercourse before she asked him to take photos of them. According to the Times, the meeting was a reunion for the actors who were in the 2004 film “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things,” in which Argento played Bennett’s mother. Argento also referred to Bennett as “my son, my love” in a social media post.
While the Times has not received a response from Argento and Bennett declined to comment on the matter, the paper said three people familiar with the case corroborated the documents’ authenticity.
According to the documents, Bennett’s initial notice of intent to sue asked for $3.5 million. He claimed he had become broke, earning far less in subsequent years because of the trauma he endured.
Leading #MeToo figure Rose McGowan reacted to the report early Monday on Twitter:
Me Too founder Tarana Burke tweeted that the movement “is for all of us, including these brave young men who are now coming forward.” She later tweeted
Weinstein’s attorney lashed out at the actress, saying, ” This development reveals a stunning level of hypocrisy by Asia Argento. one of the most vocal catalysts who sought to destroy Harvey Weinstein.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. said that though it has no report of the alleged incident, it is reaching out to Bennett and his attorneys for an interview.
Argento released a statement Tuesday to the New York Magazine, which read:
“I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article dated 20 August 2018, as circulated also in national and international news.
“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.
“I was linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequently, to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett — who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages — unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me. Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as an beloved public figure to protect.”