In August, the New York Times reported that Italian actress and outspoken #MeToo advocate Asia Argento had reached a deal to pay $380,000 to actor Jimmy Bennett, a former co-star who accused her of sexually assaulting him in a California hotel room when he was 17 years old. (The age of consent in California is 18.) Argento later denied the claim and also alleged that her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain was involved with paying Bennett.
But soon after, photos and texts emerged that may contradict Argento’s statement. Eventually, Argento’s fellow #MeToo activist Rose McGowan revealed that the texts were sent by Argento to the person McGowan had been dating, model and activist Rain Dove — and that Dove turned the messages over to the police.
Now, in mid-September, Argento has issued a threat to McGowan: she must retract the “horrible lies” made in her August 27 statement about the alleged assault, or face legal action.
The entire case is incredibly complex. Here, what you need to know.
According to the New York Times, Bennett, now 22, has known Argento, now 42, since he was a child — she starred as his mother in the 2004 film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. The pair kept in touch over the years and met up in a California hotel room in 2013, when Bennett was 17 and Argento was 37. While there, Bennett claims, Argento gave him alcohol and sexually assaulted him.
The Times reports that an attorney for Bennett sent a notice of intent to sue in November — just one month after Argento’s allegations against Weinstein were published by The New Yorker. “His 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,” the notice reads. Bennett’s attorney said his client was subjected to emotional damage and lost wages as a result of the “sexual battery.”
The actress eventually agreed to pay $380,000 to Bennett over the course of a year and a half — with $200,000 paid in April. Argento’s attorney Carrie Goldberg wrote in a letter, as reported by the Times, that Bennett agreed to transfer over the copyright of several selfies he took with Argento on the day of the alleged assault. But the agreement did not include a nondisclosure agreement, as Argento reportedly felt it was “inconsistent” with her public messages against such agreements.
The Times had stated that it repeatedly tried to contact Argento for comment. She did not respond to the Times’ requests. But finally, in a statement two days after the report was published, Argento wrote that she “strongly” denies and opposes the allegations in the article. She also alleged that she never had sex with Bennett. Her statement further reads:
I was linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequent 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.
The Times reported last week that California police are looking into the allegations against Argento. A captain with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Darren Harris, said in a brief statement that the agency was aware of the alleged incident. Harris also said to the Times that officials had not yet “located any police report alleging criminal activity” but that they were reaching out to Bennett and his representative.
Last Wednesday, TMZ published photographs that appear to show Argento and Bennett together, as well as screenshots of texts in which Argento allegedly told a friend that she and Bennett had sex but said Bennett had initiated the encounter, and that she didn’t realize he was a minor at the time.
Bennett spoke out for the first time since his allegations were published, telling the New York Times in a statement that he had felt too “ashamed” to come forward earlier. Per the Times:
“I tried to seek justice in a way that made sense to me at the time because I was not ready to deal with the ramifications of my story becoming public,” he said in a statement provided to the Times. “At the time I believed there was still a stigma to being in the situation as a male in our society. I didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy.”
I received a phone call and series of messages from the being I’ve been dating- Rain Dove. They said that they had been texting with Asia and that Asia had revealed that she had indeed slept with Jimmy Bennet. Rain also shared that Asia had stated that she’d been receiving unsolicited nudes of Jimmy since he had been 12. Asia mentioned in these texts that she didn’t take any action on those images. No reporting to authorities, to the parents, or blocking of Jimmy’s social media. Not even a simple message “Don’t send me these images. They are inappropriate.” There were a few other details revealed as well that I am not at liberty to mention in this statement as investigators do their job.
Now that Mr. Bourdain has passed away and is not able to comment on his desire to avoid potential scandal … Asia will not permit any portion of the balance of the $380,000 payment to be paid to Bennett who has already received $250,000 from Anthony Bourdain.
Dear . It is with genuine regret that I am giving you 24 hours to retract and apologise for the horrendous lies made against me in your statement of August 27th. If you fail to address this libel I will have no option other than to take immediate legal action.Asia Argento (@AsiaArgento) September 17, 2018
I’ve said repeatedly that the is for all of us, including these brave young men who are now coming forward. It will continue to be jarring when we hear the names of some of our faves connected to sexual violence unless we shift from talking about individuals [+]Tarana (@TaranaBurke) August 20, 2018
I got to know Asia Argento ten months ago. Our commonality is the shared pain of being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. My heart is broken. I will continue my work on behalf of victims everywhere.rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) August 20, 2018
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