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Actor accuses #MeToo movement leader Asia Argento of sexual assault; he was 17, she was 37

Italian actress Asia Argento, a leader in the MeToo movement, allegedly paid off her own sexual assault accuser. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)

Italian actress Asia Argento was among the first of dozens of women who accused disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

Now, she's become one of the accused, according to a report Sunday in The New York Times.

Argento allegedly agreed to pay Jimmy Bennett nearly $400,000 over claims that then-37-year-old actress sexually assaulted Bennett in a California hotel room more than five years ago. Bennett, who lives in Los Angeles, was 17 at the time. In California, the age of consent is 18.

The actress quickly became a loud voice in the MeToo movement after alleging she was raped by Weinstein in 1997 when she was 21. Argento claimed that Weinstein performed oral sex on her in a hotel room during the Cannes Film Festival in France.

Argento's boyfriend, renowned chef Anthony Bourdain, supported the actress' claims and joined her speaking out until his suicide in June.

Bennett's lawyers sent a letter of intent to sue Argento shortly after the actress' allegations of rape against Weinstein were made public in The New Yorker's exposé published last October.

What are the accusations?

The Times received documents that spelled out the details of the alleged assault, as well as the payment agreement between Argento, now 42, and Bennett, 22. The documents were sent through encrypted email from an unidentified party.

Bennett claimed that he had arrived May 9, 2013, at the Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey, in California, with a family member for a reunion with Argento.

They had acted together in the 2004 film, "The Heart is Deceitful Above all Things." Bennett, then 17, was cast as Argento's son in the film she helped write.

“Waiting for my long lost son my love @jimmymbennett in trepidation #marinadelrey smoking cigarettes like there was no next week,” Argento wrote in a post on Instagram that day.

“I’m almost there!:)" Bennett replied.

At the hotel, Argento asked to be alone with the 17-year-old, the Times reported, and the family agreed to leave the room.

According to Bennett, she gave him alcohol and showed him notes that she had written to him on hotel stationery, the Times said. She allegedly kissed him, pushed him back on the bed and performed oral sex on him. Then they had intercourse,  the Times reported.

Photos of the two lying in bed partially clothed, along with an Instagram photo of their faces taken on the same day of the accusations were included in the documents.


How much was he paid?

Argento agreed to pay $380,000 to Bennett, the Times reported. The first payment of $200,00 was made in April, the Times said, with the balance to be paid over the course of a year and a half.

Bennett had initially asked for $3.5 million from Argento, according to the Times. His lawyers claimed that the trauma he experienced because of their sexual encounter has attributed to a drop in his income. He allegedly earned more than $2.7 million in the five years prior to the incident and since has earned an average of $60,000 annually.

Bennett began acting at age 6, when he was cast in a commercial for a Dodge Caravan, and went on to appear in dozens of other commercials, the Times reported. His movie career started in 2003 with “Daddy Day Care,” which starred Eddie Murphy.

Why did he come forward now?

Bennett's lawyers wrote that Argento's claims of being a victim of sexual assault called up memories of Bennett's encounter with the actress in 2013.

“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,” Bennett's lawyer wrote in the notice of intent to sue.

The pair often referred to each other as mother and son, in interviews and on social media over the years.

“Jimmy’s impression of this situation was that a mother-son relationship had blossomed from their experience on set together,” Bennett's lawyer Gordon K. Sattro wrote in the documents, according to The Times.

What did Argento say?

Argento, who is divorced and has two children, and her representatives have not responded to the Times' requests for comment.

What did Bennett say?

Bennett would not agree to an interview with the Times.

“In the coming days,” Sattro wrote in an email, “Jimmy will continue doing what he has been doing over the past months and years, focusing on his music.”

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