The New York Times published a report on Sunday night by food writer Kim Severson that details how noted Harvey Weinstein accuser and #MeToo movement leader, Italian actress Asia Argento, recently paid $380,000 to squash a potential sexual assault scandal of her own involving a young actor who reportedly looked up to her as a motherly figure.
According to legal documents leaked anonymously to Severson and the Times via encrypted email, Argento — the girlfriend of Anthony Bourdain prior to his death by suicide, whom he famously expressed support for publicly on numerous occasions — allegedly sexually assaulted actor James Bennett in a Marina del Rey hotel room when he was just 17. (Years prior, in 2004, when he was 7 years old, Bennett played Argento’s son in the film, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. In the film, Argento’s character dresses her son — Bennett — as a girl to lure men, and which eventually leads to him being raped.)
According to the legal documents obtained by the Times, Bennett was escorted to Argento’s hotel by a family member in May of 2013 for a reunion of sorts.
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 two had lunch, and Mr. Bennett headed home to Orange County, where he lived with his parents. As he was driven home, according to his claim, he began to feel “extremely confused, mortified, and disgusted.”
Fast forward to late 2017, when Argento came forward to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of rape and, in the process, emerged as a leader of the #MeToo movement, an occurrence that was triggering to Bennett, according to documents that were filed by his attorney.
For Mr. Bennett, seeing Ms. Argento present herself as a victim of sexual assault was too much to bear, his lawyer wrote, and called up memories of their hotel reunion. “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,” Mr. Sattro wrote in the notice of intent to sue.
But in the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.
Argento has recently caught heat in some corners of the internet for photos published in European tabloids just days before Bourdain’s suicide that showed her holding hands and dancing suggestively with French journalist Hugo Clement, which led to Rose McGowan and some others in Hollywood to speak out against accusations that she was in any way responsible for Bourdain’s death.
Neither Argento nor any of her representatives responded to requests for comment on the Times’ story, it was reported.