Asia Argento to stop payments to sexual assault accuser
Argento’s lawyer claims that although her former boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, paid Bennett US$250,000 as part of the settlement, the actress would not be making further payments. (All dollar amounts U.S.)
“As revealed in the text messages published by TMZ, Asia stated, ‘The horny kid jumped me … I had sex with him it felt weird.’ She went on to relate that she became ‘frozen’ when he was on top of her and told her that she had been his sexual fantasy since he was 12 years old,” Argento’s lawyer, Mark Heller, wrote in a statement Wednesday. “Asia chose at the time not to prosecute Bennett for sexually attacking her.”
“It was 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,” according to the statement, which was reported on CNN.
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The statement continued: “Bourdain chose to protect Asia’s and his reputation and to pay Bennett and allowed Bennett to extract payments from him … (Now) that Mr. Bourdain has passed away and is not able to comment on his desire to avoid potential scandal which resulted in his facilitating payment to Bennett, 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.”
In August, a New York Times article reported that Argento agreed to pay Bennett the sum of money after he accused her of sexual battery from an alleged incident that occurred in May 2013.
The actor claimed that Argento sexually assaulted him in a hotel room in 2013 when he was only 17 — below the age of consent in California — and she was 37. The Times cited documents sent to the publication anonymously and verified them with three people familiar with the case. In the documents, Bennett said that Argento gave him alcohol, kissed him and performed oral sex on him before the pair had sexual intercourse.
Bennett, now 22, sent a notice of intent to sue in November to Richard Hofstetter, a lawyer for both Argento and her late then-boyfriend, celebrity chef Bourdain. He asked for $3.5 million in damages for the “intentional infliction” of emotional distress, assault, battery and damage to his career.
Argento, now 42, allegedly paid out the $380,000 settlement last October, shortly after she publicly claimed that Weinstein raped her. She said the sexual assault took place during the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 when she was 21. (Weinstein has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex, and said Argento’s allegations, in particular, are “completely false.”)
Argento had previously written a statement vehemently denying the allegations, saying she never slept with Bennett or had any sexual contact with him whatsoever. (Argento sent the statement to freelance journalist Yashar Ali, who verified to Global News that he was the only recipient of the message.)
“I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article dated 20 August 2018, as circulated also in national and international news,” read her statement. “I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.”
“I was linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequent to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett — who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages — unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me. Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect.”
Argento then veered into unexpected territory, saying that Bourdain “personally undertook to help Bennett economically.”
“Antony [sic] insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted,” continued the statement. “Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us. We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help and give it to him. Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
“This is, therefore, the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution. I have therefore no other choice but to oppose such false allegations and will assume in the short term all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues,” it concluded.
In a statement posted to Instagram on Aug. 22, Bennett said he chose to handle the situation in private because he wasn’t prepared to deal with any public fallout, and that his trauma resurfaced after Argento came out as a sexual assault victim herself.
“I was underage when the event took place, and 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,” Bennett wrote.
“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.”
—With files from Chris Jancelewicz and Rahul KalvapalleFollow @KatieScottNews
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