Asia Argento, one of the most notable faces of the #MeToo movement and an accuser of disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, has settled with a former male co-star to the tune of US$380,000, according to a bombshell report from The New York Times.
The actor, Jimmy Bennett, claimed that Argento sexually assaulted him in a hotel room in 2013 when he was only 17 — below the age of consent in California — and she was 37. (In 2004, Bennett played Argento’s young son in her movie, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.)
The Times cited documents sent to the publication anonymously and verified them with three people familiar with the case. In the documents, Bennett said that Argento gave him alcohol, kissed him and performed oral sex on him before the pair had sexual intercourse.
Bennett, now 22, sent a notice of intent to sue in November to Richard Hofstetter, a lawyer for both Argento and her late then-boyfriend, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. He asked for $3.5 million in damages for the “intentional infliction” of emotional distress, assault, battery and damage to his career.
Argento, now 42, allegedly paid out the $380,000 settlement last October, shortly after she publicly claimed that Weinstein raped her. She said the sexual assault took place during the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 when she was 21. (Weinstein has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex, and said Argento’s allegations, in particular, are “completely false.”)
In a statement Monday afternoon to CNN, Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Weinstein, said the accusations against Argento reveal “a stunning level of hypocrisy.”
“This development reveals a stunning level of hypocrisy by Asia Argento, one of the most vocal catalysts who sought to destroy Harvey Weinstein,” it read. “What is perhaps most egregious, is the timing, which suggests that at the very same time Argento was working on her own secret settlement for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor, she was propositioning herself at the forefront of those condemning Mr. Weinstein, despite the fact that her sexual relationship with Mr. Weinstein was between two consenting adults which lasted for more than four years.”
“The sheer duplicity of her conduct is quite extraordinary and should demonstrate to everyone how poorly the allegations against Mr. Weinstein were actually vetted and accordingly, cause all of us to pause and allow due process to prevail, not condemnation by fundamental dishonesty,” it concluded.
Bennett claimed that Argento asked, post-intercourse, to take multiple photos with him, including some where they’re semi-clothed. As part of the settlement, Bennett forfeited the copyright to a selfie of he and Argento lying in bed, taken on the alleged day of the assault in May 2013. The picture was among the documents received at the Times, and verified as authentic by their sources.
Bennett’s lawyer, Gordon K. Sattro, wrote in the notice of intent that Argento’s recent accusations against Weinstein rekindled the trauma his client allegedly experienced.
“ feelings about that day were brought to the forefront recently when Ms. Argento took the spotlight as one of the many victims of Harvey Weinstein,” it read.
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The Times also received an April email from Argento lawyer Carrie Goldberg acknowledging the settlement and payment to Bennett, which she wrote was “helping” him.
“We hope nothing like this ever happens to you again,” she wrote. “You are a powerful and inspiring creator and it is a miserable condition of life that you live among s***ty individuals who’ve preyed on both your strengths and your weaknesses.”
As a result of the report, multiple old tweets from Argento to Bennett have resurfaced, including this tweet thread from 2012.
Rose McGowan, Argento’s friend and fellow actor, has publicly banded with her against Weinstein as a part of the #MeToo movement. McGowan also claimed that Weinstein raped her, and has attacked the producer online and at protests on multiple occasions. In response to the Times report about Argento, she tweeted early Monday that her “heart is broken.”
Argento and French journalist Hugo Clément are seen in multiple photographs holding hands and hugging, leading many to believe (and speculate) that the alleged dalliance may have further contributed to Bourdain’s passing. The theory online goes that Bourdain was thrown into a deep depression spiral by the photos — again, with no tangible proof that this was the case.
Online trolls and fans of Bourdain are still attacking Argento for what they perceive as cheating or mistreatment.
In an open letter, McGowan stated that she was sitting with Argento (meaning she had her permission to write and disseminate the letter), and describes her and Bourdain’s relationship as “free,” and that the couple “loved without borders of traditional relationships.”
By the sounds of the letter, Bourdain, 61, and Argento had some sort of open relationship, which means that they could date multiple people at the same time. McGowan insists that the two of them “established the parameters of their relationship early on.”
As of this writing, Argento has not commented publicly on the Times report. Through his lawyer, Bennett declined to comment and is now “focusing on his music.”Follow @CJancelewicz
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