Italian actress Asia Argento became the latest Hollywood celebrity to be accused of sexual assault.
In an explosive report published by the New York Times, Argento, who famously dated the late Anthony Bourdain, allegedly assaulted her The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things co-star Jimmy Bennett when he was 17. She was 37 at the time.
The legal documents, which were included in an email to the newspaper from an anonymous source, showed that the 22-year-old actor blamed Argento of "sexual battery," which occurred during a 2013 meeting they had in a Los Angeles hotel room.
Bennett alleged that despite being underage Argento gave him alcohol, then "kissed him, pushed him back on the bed, removed his pants and performed oral sex." She eventually "climbed on top of him and the two had intercourse."
The actress and director then asked Bennett to take a few pictures before they parted ways.
The former child star did not immediately report Argento, but after she spoke out against Weinstein last fall, his attorneys reportedly sent her a letter revealing their intent to pursue legal action. They alleged that their client was significantly affected by the trauma and he lost a lot of income as a result.
"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," read the letter.
The New York Times reported that Argento, who is known for her advocacy against sexual assault, paid hush money to Bennett so he would stay silent. Instead of going to court, the actress agreed to pay the Daddy Day Care actor a total of $380,000 "over the course of a year and a half," starting with a lump sum payment of $200,000.
After the allegations became public knowledge, Bennett's legal team released a statement in which they said "Jimmy will continue doing what he has been doing over the past months and years, focusing on his music."
Argento, 42, broke her silence a day later in a statement to New York Times journalist Yashar Ali.
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, 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. Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect.
Antony [sic] insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted. Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us. We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett's demand for help and give it to him. Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.
This is, therefore, the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution. I have therefore no other choice but to oppose such false allegations and will assume in the short term all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues.
Despite Argento insisting that nothing had occurred between her and Bennett, TMZ exclusively revealed that they have obtained one of the photos Bennett took that fateful night.
The celebrity news website claimed that while the selfie is "not overly sexual," it's not hard to "conclude it looks like a post-sex pic as the [two] faintly smiled while they lay on a shared pillow."
Although Bennett forfeited the copyright to the photo as part of the settlement, TMZ reported that Argento couldn't get Bennettt to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) because in California the agreement isn't enforced if it involves allegations of child sexual assault.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is currently investigating the allegations. More information will be made available as the case progresses.