Asia Argento, one of the first actresses to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, reportedly paid off a young male actor who accused her of sexual misconduct just months after she came forward about her alleged incident with the disgraced mogul.
The actress apparently made a $380,000 settlement with child actor Jimmy Bennett, who claims that in 2013, Argento, then 37, assaulted him a couple months after he turned 17, according to The New York Times, which was first to report the news. The incident allegedly occurred in California, where the age of consent is 18. Bennett, now 22, played Argento’s son in a 2004 movie called The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.
Bennett’s accusations, and later the arrangement for restitution, are documented in exchanges between Argento and Bennett’s respective lawyers, which the Times notes it received from an “encrypted email by an unidentified party.” (The outlet also claims to have sources backing up the details.) The email allegedly includes a photograph dated May 9, 2013, which shows the two lying in bed together. Per their alleged settlement, Bennett had to turn the photograph and its copyright over to Argento. Three people familiar with the case reportedly verified that the documents are real.
Reps for both Argento and Bennett did not immediately return EW’s request for comment. The Times noted that Argento’s representatives did not respond to their requests for comment. Bennett declined an interview with the Times. His lawyer Gordon K. Sattro told the outlet, “In the coming days Jimmy will continue doing what he has been doing over the past months and years, focusing on his music.”
According to the Times, Argento’s lawyer Carrie Goldberg wrote an email to the actress in April regarding the details of the deal and payment schedule. In the note, the attorney characterized the money as “helping Mr. Bennett.”
“We hope nothing like this ever happens to you again,” Goldberg wrote. “You are a powerful and inspiring creator, and it is a miserable condition of life that you live among shitty individuals who’ve preyed on both your strengths and your weaknesses.”
The actor’s attorneys reportedly notified Argento of their intent to sue in November. According to the Times, the alleged incident affected Bennett’s mental health and hurt his acting career. The legal notice was reportedly sent to Anthony Bourdain’s lawyer, who was representing Argento at the time. Bourdain and Argento were in a relationship before his death.
At the Cannes Film Festival’s closing ceremony earlier this year, Argento spoke about Weinstein, saying, “In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21 years old. This festival was his hunting ground.”
Argento had admitted in a New Yorker piece, as relayed by writer Ronan Farrow, that she had “consensual sexual relations with [Weinstein] multiple times over the course of the next five years” following the alleged assault, but that they were “one-sided and ‘onanistic.’” According to Farrow’s piece, she felt Weinstein would “ruin her career if she didn’t comply.”
Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by over 60 women since The New York Times, and The New Yorker documented decades of alleged sexual misconduct and sexual assault involving a number of women in detailed, Pulitzer-prize winning articles in October.
A spokesperson for the producer said in a statement “any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”
Since she came forward with claims against Weinstein, Argento wrote in the Guardian how she has been “slut-shamed, victim-blamed, bullied, and threatened on a daily basis.” She had also appeared in New York with Italian actresses Laura Boldrini and Ambra Battilana Gutierrez for the Women in the World summit where she spoke publicly about her own experience in the industry and the #MeToo movement.