The New York Times reported on Sunday night that Asia Argento—one of the first to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, and one of the leading voices behind the #MeToo movement—paid out $380,000 to a young actor and musician who accused her of sexually assaulting him when he was only 17 years old.
According to the Times, Jimmy Bennett, 22, says a then-37-year-old Argento assaulted him in a hotel room in California in 2013, shortly after his birthday. In November, Bennett’s attorney reportedly sent Richard Hofstetter, an attorney representing Argento, a notice of intent to sue, citing the trauma stemming from a “sexual battery” was so significant Bennett was struggling with his mental health and having difficulty working. In that notice, Bennett and his attorney sought $3.5 million in damages caused by emotional distress, assault, battery, and lost wages.
An unidentified source sent the Times several documents that show Argento arranged to pay Bennett in a series of installments, and as part of the agreement, Bennett gave Argento a photograph that showed the two of them in bed on May 9, 2013, the alleged day of the assault. The Times is now in possession of that photograph, which they confirmed through three sources is “authentic.” The alleged assault is detailed in the notice of intent:
The document lays out Mr. Bennett’s account: Ms. Argento asked the family member to leave so she could be alone with the actor. She gave him alcohol to drink and showed him a series of notes she had written to him on hotel stationery. Then she kissed him, pushed him back on the bed, removed his pants and performed oral sex. She climbed on top of him and the two had intercourse, the document says. She then asked him to take a number of photos.
Later that day she posted a close-up of their faces on Instagram with the caption, “Happiest day of my life reunion with @jimmymbennett xox,” and added that “jimmy is going to be in my next movie and that is a fact, dig that jack.” That post and others were included with the notice of intent, along with three photos apparently taken by Mr. Bennett that depict him and Ms. Argento in bed, their unclothed torsos exposed. (Only one of the photos taken in bed shows both their faces.)
The Times is also in possession of correspondence between Argento and her attorney, Carrie Goldberg, confirming a schedule of payments:
In an April letter addressed to Ms. Argento confirming the final details of the deal and setting out a schedule of payments, Ms. Goldberg characterized the money as “helping Mr. Bennett.”
“We hope nothing like this ever happens to you again,” Ms. Goldberg wrote. “You are a powerful and inspiring creator and it is a miserable condition of life that you live among shitty individuals who’ve preyed on both your strengths and your weaknesses.”
Neither Argento nor Goldberg has responded to the paper’s request for comment, and Bennett declined to be interviewed. “In the coming days, Jimmy will continue doing what he has been doing over the past months and years, focusing on his music,” his attorney, Gordon K. Sattro, told the Times in an email.
Argento was prominently featured in the October 2017 New Yorker piece outlining a slew of assault allegations against Weinstein, kicking off a #MeToo movement that reverberated through Hollywood and other industries plagued by rampant harassment and sexual misconduct. According to Bennett’s notice of intent, which was sent about a month after the New Yorker piece came out, the story inspired him to take action against Argento. “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,” Sattro wrote in the notice.