On Wednesday, TMZ published a photo of Asia Argento and Jimmy Bennett reportedly taken after Argento allegedly sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room in 2013. (You can see it here.) Bennett, now 22, was 17 years old at the time. The age of consent in California is 18. Argento was 37.
The photo’s publication comes just days after the New York Times reported that Argento reached a deal with Bennett after his legal team sent a notice of intent to sue in November. Bennett was seeking $3.5 million in damages “for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault, and battery.” His lawyer explained that Bennett’s average yearly salary has dropped to $60,000 since 2013, which he “attributes to the trauma that followed the sexual encounter with Argento.” Before that, Bennett reportedly made upwards of $2.7 million.
According to the Times, Argento agreed to pay Bennett $380,000 after receiving his notice of intent.
In the photo published by TMZ, the two actors appear to be shirtless and laying in bed, with their heads touching. According to TMZ, the selfie is one of four photos taken by Bennett in the hotel room where Argento allegedly assaulted him. The Times states that three photos—only one of which shows both Argento and Bennett’s faces in full—of the two in bed were included in Bennett’s notice of intent to sue, sent to Argento in November.
In a letter quoted by the Times, Argento’s lawyer Carrie Goldberg explains that, under the terms of her deal with Bennett, the young actor would not be able to “post the photo of the two of you.”
TMZ also posted screenshots of what appear to be texts between Argento and a friend, in which Argento admits to a sexual encounter with Bennett. The date of those messages is unclear. In a statement provided to the Times on Tuesday, Argento denied that she ever had sex with Bennett, but admitted she paid Bennett and that her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain helped her with the money:
“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false,” she said in a statement circulated on social media. “I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.”
His claim, she said, “constitutes a longstanding persecution.”
Read more about her statement here.
Update (4:30 p.m.) Jimmy Bennett has given his first public statement on the Times’ report that Argento paid him $380,000, after his lawyer issued a notice of intent to sue Argento for damages stemming from a traumatizing sexual battery:
“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,” he said in a statement provided to The Times. “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.”