The New York Times dropped a bombshell on Monday that revealed actress and director Asia Argento, one of the first females to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, paid off a man who accused her of sexual abuse. From the Times:

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.

That claim and the subsequent arrangement for payments are laid out in documents between lawyers for Ms. Argento and Mr. Bennett, a former child actor who once played her son in a movie.

The documents, which were sent to The New York Times through encrypted email by an unidentified party, include a selfie dated May 9, 2013, of the two lying in bed. As part of the agreement, Mr. Bennett, who is now 22, gave the photograph and its copyright to Ms. Argento, now 42. Three people familiar with the case said the documents were authentic.

The New York Times reached out to Argento’s lawyer Carrie Goldberg, but she did not reply to the emails and her office told the publication she “would not be available to discuss this article.

Goldberg sent a letter after the payment to Bennett:

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.”

The Times wrote that the incident “was so traumatic that it hindered Mr. Bennett’s work and income and threatened his mental health, according to a notice of intent to sue that his lawyer sent in November to Richard Hofstetter, Mr. Bourdain’s longtime lawyer, who was also representing Ms. Argento at the time.” The Times continued:

Mr. Bennett’s notice of intent asked for $3.5 million in damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery. Mr. Bennett made more than $2.7 million in the five years before the 2013 meeting with Ms. Argento, but his income has since dropped to an average of $60,000 a year, which he attributes to the trauma that followed the sexual encounter with Ms. Argento, his lawyer wrote.

In October, a month before Mr. Bennett sent his demand for money, The New Yorker published an article by Ronan Farrow that included Ms. Argento among 13 women who accused Mr. Weinstein of harassment and rape.

Argento’s payoff has caused her allies in the #MeToo movement to put some distance between themselves, including leader Rose McGowan. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Asia Argento’s former ally Rose McGowan has publicly distanced herself from the Italian director and actress after a report in the New York Times said that Argento paid off her own sexual assault accuser.

Both Argento and McGowan have been two of the most outspoken critics of Harvey Weinsten after coming forward as victims of the disgraced Hollywood producer last fall.

McGowan tweeted: “I got to know Asia Argento ten months ago. Our commonality is the shared pain of being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. My heart is broken. I will continue my work on behalf of victims everywhere.”

According to photographs, McGowan first met Argento in March of 2003 and they grew closer last year over their shared experiences in coming out as the first victims of Weinstein.

But it looks like the bombshell won’t stop Argento from quitting the #MeToo movement. At the Cannes festival, Argento described the festival as Weinstein’s “hunting ground” in her speech. From NBC News:

“In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21 years old,” Argento said while presenting onstage during the festival’s closing ceremony on Saturday in France.

“This festival was his hunting ground,” she said.

Argento then predicted that Weinstein “will never be welcomed here ever again.”

“He will live in disgrace, shunned by a film community that once embraced him and covered up for his crimes,” she said.

Despite the removal of Weinstein, Argento insisted the audience contains more predators:

“And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women, for behavior that does not belong in this industry, does not belong in any industry or work place,” she said.

“You know who you are, but most importantly — we know who you are and we’re not going to allow you to get away with it any longer,” she said, drawing applause from the crowd.


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