Asia Argento won’t OK further payments to Jimmy Bennett, who accused her of sexual assault
Asia Argento will not sanction any further payments to Jimmy Bennett, the actor who accused her of sleeping with him when he was underage.
Bennett had already received $250,000 of a $380,000 agreement, according to a statement from her lawyer, Mark Jay Heller, who says the payments were the idea of her late boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain and paid by him.
The New York Times reported in August that Argento, an actress and prominent face in the #MeToo movement, agreed to pay Bennett, an actor who accused her of sexual assault. He insists the two had sex when he was 17 and she was 37 in 2013 in California, where the age of consent is 18.
In a lengthy statement posted to his website, Heller said the payments had been misconstrued as hush money.
“It was also inaccurately revealed that a $380,000 settlement had been paid by Asia to Bennett in an attempt to preclude Bennett from making any allegations against Asia which would certainly create the impression that Asia was responsible for the alleged incident … These aforesaid facts have apparently created a public perception that falsely conveyed the impression that Asia initiated and engaged in intercourse with Bennett and was trying to avoid detection by making a $380,000 payment. In fact, the payment agreement did not preclude Bennett from making any statements about the event or preclude him from filing a criminal complaint against Asia.”
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Heller also reiterated what Argento previously said, that it was her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain’s desire to pay Bennett. “Bourdain chose to protect Asia’s and his reputation and to pay Bennett and allowed Bennett to extract payments from him. Asia was completely against this approach because she had done nothing wrong and especially since the incident was initiated and perpetrated by Bennett against her.”
Of the decision to stop payment to Bennett, Heller writes, “Asia will not permit any portion of the balance of the $380,000 payment to be paid to Bennett who has already received $250,000 from Anthony Bourdain. Asia recognizes that this may very well inspire Bennett to make further false allegations against her and attempt to besmirch her reputation and diminish her credibility in her accusations against Harvey Weinstein.” (Argento claims the disgraced filmmaker forcibly performed oral sex on her.)
Heller again maintained his client’s innocence, predicting “it will ultimately be determined that Asia never initiated (any) inappropriate contact with a minor, but rather she was attacked by Bennett.”
In a conflicting move, he also confirmed the legitimacy of text messages published by TMZ in August in which she admitted “I had sex with him it felt weird,” while also calling Argento’s previous statement in which she said “I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett” “completely accurate.”
Heller also claims “Bennett himself was alleged to have been charged in 2014 at the Los Angeles Police Department with ‘unlawful sex with a minor,’ ‘stalking’ and ‘child pornography’ and ‘child exploitation.'” USA TODAY has reached out to LAPD about the supposed charges.
Still, Heller writes that Bennett should not be kept from making allegations against Argento, under what he called “Phase Two” of the #MeToo movement. “Asia believes that in Phase Two of the #metoo movement, everyone should come forward (and) tell their story regardless of their past.”
USA TODAY has reached out to Bennett’s rep for comment.
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