Asia Argento denies having any type of sexual relationship with her former co-star, Jimmy Bennett, following The New York Times' report on Sunday that she paid off Bennett after he accused her of sexual assault.
According to legal documents obtained by the newspaper, Bennett's lawyer sent a notice of intent to sue the actress for allegedly sexually assaulting the actor in a California hotel room in 2013 when he was 17 and she was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.
According to The Times, Argento settled the suit and paid Bennett $380,000. Just prior to the settlement, the 42-year-old actress publicly accused producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault in a New Yorker expose that was published in October. Weinstein has denied any allegations of non-consensual sex.
But in a statement on Tuesday first obtained by journalist Yashar Ali, Argento denies having a sexual relationship with the now 22-year-old Bennett -- who played her son in the 2004 film, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things -- and claims her boyfriend at the time, the late Anthony Bourdain, paid him off to avoid negative publicity. She also claims Bennett was undergoing serious financial issues at the time, and that she and Bourdain wanted to "deal compassionately" with his demand for help.
"I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false," Argento's statement reads. "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 undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions of dollars 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 figure to protect."
"Anthony insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted," the statement continues. "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 he would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life."
ET has reached out to Argento for comment.
Bennett spoke out in a statement on Wednesday.
"Many brave women and men have spoken out about their own experiences during the #metoo movement, and I appreciate the bravery that it took for each and every one of them to take such a stand," he said in a statement obtained by ET. "I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me. My trauma resurfaced as she came out as a victim herself. I have not made a public statement in the past days and hours because I was ashamed and afraid to be part of the public narrative. I was underage when the event took place, and I tried to seek justice in a way that made sense to me at the time because I was not ready to deal with the ramifications of my story becoming public. At the time I believed there was still a stigma to being in the situation as a male in our society. I didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy. I have had to overcome many adversities in my life, and this is another that I will deal with, in time. I would like to move past this event in my life, and today I choose to move forward, no longer in silence."
Bourdain died in June and his death was ruled a suicide. According to The Times, the late chef's lawyer, Richard Hofstetter, was representing Argento in the case with Bennett. Bourdain was also an outspoken supporter of his girlfriend after she went public with her sexual assault allegations against Weinstein, tweeting last October, "@AsiaArgento, I am proud and honored to know you. You just did the hardest thing in the world. Can we use the word 'rapist' now? #Weinstein."
As for the accusations against Argento, The Times reported that the legal documents contain allegations that Argento was alone with Bennett in a hotel room and gave him alcohol before kissing him, pushing him on the bed and performing oral sex. The two allegedly later had sex, and afterwards, Argento asked Bennett to take a number of photos. Bennett's lawyer claims in the docs that the sexual assault was so traumatic that it affected his client's mental health and his acting career.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told ET that they were looking into the allegations against Argento, though they have not yet “located any police report alleging criminal activity," and are reaching out to Bennett.
"The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is aware of the media reports naming Asia Argento as being involved in an alleged 2013 incident in an area policed by our Marina Del Rey Station," Captain Darren Harris said in a statement. "To date, the LASD has not located any police report alleging criminal activity within our jurisdiction in relation to this incident. After becoming aware of the allegations, the LASD’s Special Victims Bureau is attempting to reach out to the reported victim and/or his representatives in an effort to appropriately document any potential criminal allegations."
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