Los Angeles, CA – One of the first actresses to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault allegedly paid $380,000 to a young man who accused her of sexually assaulting him.
Asia Argento, a 42-year-old Italian actress and director who was in a relationship with Anthony Bourdain at the time of his death, became a very vocal and leading figure in the #MeToo movement after she accused the Weinstein of having raped her when she was 21, The New York Times reported.
In May, Argento gave a speech at the Cannes Film Festival where she told the audience that the festival itself had been Weinstein’s “hunting ground” for new victims.
She said she had been raped by him there when she was 21. She had also given a similar high-profile talk about it at Harvard University, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
However, it backfired on her not long afterwards when a former child actor Argento had worked with accused her of having taken advantage of him when he was 17 and she was 37, The New York Times reported.
An anonymous party sent the scurrilous details of the settlement between Argento and now 22-year-old Jimmy Bennett to The New York Times, including an April letter from Argento’s attorney Carrie Goldberg in which she referred to the structured settlement payments to the young man as “helping Mr. Bennett.”
“We hope nothing like this ever happens to you again,” Goldberg wrote, according to The New York Times. “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.”
Bennett’s attorney, Gordon K. Sattro, said that watching Argento put herself in the front of the #MeToo movement and present herself as a victim of sexual assault was more than the young man, who played Argento’s son in a movie when he was seven years old, could handle watching.
“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,” Sattro wrote in the notice of intent to sue.
The incident occurred on May 9, 2013, when Argento invited Bennett to meet her at her hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey for a reunion. She posted about her excitement on Instagram before he arrived.
The documents provided to The New York Times showed that Argento asked the family member who drove then-17-year-old Bennett to leave. Once they were alone, she allegedly gave Bennett alcohol, and then kissed him and performed oral sex on him.
Afterward, she climbed on top of him and they had intercourse, according to the documents provided to The New York Times.
She later made Bennett take a series of pictures of the two of them together naked in bed. Only one of the pictures showed both their faces, The New York Times reported.
According to Bennett’s claim, he began to feel “extremely confused, mortified, and disgusted” during the car ride home after the encounter.
Over time, “the sexual battery” in the hotel room sent Bennett into a spiral of emotional problems, and had been so traumatic that it hurt the young man’s ability work and earn income, and threatened his mental health, according to the documents given to The New York Times.
The notice Bennett’s attorney sent Argento of his intent to sue asked for $3.5 million in damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery, The New York Times reported.
Bennett earned $2.7 million in the five years preceding the hotel room encounter with Argento, but dropped to about $60,000 a year after he was raped by the actress who described herself as both a “mentor” and a “mom” to the young actor.
Argento agreed to pay Bennett $380,000 to settle the suit, with an initial payment of $200,000 in April and the rest in scheduled payments over an 18-month period, according to The New York Times.
The agreement does not prevent either side from discussing the settlement because California law doesn’t allow non-disclosure agreements in those sorts of civil suits.
According to documents received by The New York Times, Argento’s attorney had advised the actress they could settle the suit in another state to get around that and keep the matter quiet, but the actress had decided against it.
“Ultimately, you decided against the non-disclosure language because you felt it was inconsistent with the public messages you’ve conveyed about the societal perils of non-disclosure agreements,” Goldberg wrote to Argento.
“At the very least, he is not permitted to bother you for more money, disparage you or sue — so long as you comply with your obligations in the agreement,” the attorney advised.