#MeToo advocate Asia Argento, one of the first women to accuse disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, paid off an ex-child actor who accused her of sexual misconduct, according to legal documents obtained by The New York Times.
Jimmy Bennett, who was 17 at the time of the encounter, alleges that he was assaulted by Argento in a California hotel in 2013, when the actress was 37. (The age of consent in California is 18.) Bennett’s lawyer notified Argento last November of his intention to sue for $3.5 million for emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery – a month after she went public with her allegations against Weinstein. The Italian actress agreed to pay him $380,000.
Three people familiar with the case told the Times the documents were authentic.
USA TODAY has reached out to Argento’s representative for comment. Bennett declined comment to the Times.
Argento, 42, and Bennett, now 22, co-starred as a teenage mother and her son in the 2004 film “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things,” which Argento directed and co-wrote.
The actors stayed in touch on social media, and Bennett says she assaulted him when they met up on May 9, 2013, at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, California. The documents say she gave him alcohol and pulled his pants off for oral sex and intercourse. According to the Times, Argento noted the occasion on Instagram: “Happiest day of my life reunion with @jimmymbennett xox.”
In October, the actress told The New Yorker that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her at a hotel in France, where she was attending Cannes Film Festival in 1997. Weinstein has said their relationship was consensual.
This May, Argento gave a fiery speech about sexual assault at the closing ceremony of Cannes. “This festival was his hunting ground,” she told the black-tie crowd. “I want to make a prediction: Harvey Weinstein will never be welcomed here ever again. He will live in disgrace, shunned by a film community that once embraced him and covered up for his crimes.
“Even tonight,” she continued, “sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women, for behavior that does not belong in this industry, does not belong in any industry. You know who you are. But most importantly, we know who you are. And we’re not going to allow you to get away with it any longer.”
Rose McGowan, Argento’s fellow warrior in the war on Weinstein, communicated her dismay over the report via Twitter early Monday morning.
“I got to know Asia Argento ten months ago. Our commonality is the shared pain of being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein,” McGowan shared. “My heart is broken. I will continue my work on behalf of victims everywhere.”
The two appeared to have grown close in the short amount of time. In June, following the death of Argento’s boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, she partnered with McGowan to pen a statement pleading with people not to place blame for the celebrity chef-TV host’s suicide.
“On behalf of me and all who are hurting because of this unfathomable loss, I have asked the strongest woman I know, Rose McGowan, to be my voice, to help me shoulder this burden and write truth,” Argento said in a statement issued to USA TODAY at the time.
Meanwhile, Argento could face professional consequences: She’s a judge on “X Factor Italy,” scheduled to resume airing on Sept. 6. But the producers released a statement warning that if Times story “were to be confirmed,” then the show would have no choice but to cut ties with Argento.