Actress and filmmaker Asia Argento — also a #MeToo figurehead — vehemently denies that she sexually assaulted a 17-year-old boy more than five years ago.
Argento, in fact, has appeared to even pin it on the victim instead, by saying that he was extorting her for financial gain.
The actress and filmmaker — who was dating the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain at the time of his death — also said that Bourdain was at least partially responsible for paying off Argento's alleged victim, and that it was orchestrated at the late chef's request.
What's the background?
Argento — who was one of the very first entertainers to come out publicly and accuse embattled film mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault — reportedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old actor in 2013 and purportedly paid him off monetarily. Argento was 37 years old at the time the alleged incident occurred.
The age of consent in California is 18 years old.
The purported victim, actor Jimmy Bennett, said that Argento invited him to her hotel room, where she plied him with alcohol, performed oral sex on him, and then had intercourse with him afterward.
Bennett and Argento starred in "The Heart is Deceitful Above all Things" together, a film in which Bennett played the role of Argento's character's son.
A Sunday report in the New York Times revealed that Argento had reportedly settled with Bennett for a sum of approximately $380,000.
The outlet reportedly received identifying documents detailing the alleged assault, as well as the payment arrangement between Argento and Bennett. According to the outlet, the documents were sent to the Times from an unidentified entity and through encrypted email, and reportedly contained quoting documents that lawyers for both Argento and Bennett had exchanged.
The very day that Argento reportedly sexually assaulted Bennett, she shared an Instagram post, which she captioned, “Waiting for my long lost son my love @jimmymbennett in trepidation #marinadelrey smoking cigarettes like there was no next week.”
Another photo, cropped so that you can just see Bennett and Argento's eyes, is captioned, "Happiest day of my life reunion with @jimmymbennett xox."
A post shared by asiaargento (@asiaargento) on
You can read more details on the allegations and the background here.
What's Argento saying now?
On Tuesday, journalist Yashar Ali shared a statement from Argento on the matter.
The statement read:
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.
[Anthony] 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 into 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.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) August 21, 2018
TMZ reported that Argento reportedly paid Bennett the amount of $380,000 for a purported post-coital photo.
The outlet reported that they had seen the photo in question, and it featured a selfie of Argento snuggled with "then-17-year-old Jimmy Bennett on a bed, shirtless, their foreheads pressed together, her arm over his as they lay with satisfied smiles."
The two also reportedly lay on a shared pillow in the photo, according to TMZ.
The L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. has reportedly opened an investigation into the alleged incident.