Asia Argento is denying part of a New York Times story that claims she paid $380,000 to actor and musician Jimmy Bennett to prevent him from suing her over an alleged assault. The Times reported Sunday that in November 2017, Bennett asked Argento through legal representation for $3.5 million in damages in over an alleged “sexual battery” from 2013. Though Bennett declined to be interviewed for the story, documents sent by an anonymous source to the Times indicate that Bennett accused Argento of giving him alcohol, performed oral sex, and had intercourse with him. Bennett was 17 at the time of the alleged encounter, while the age of consent in California is 18.
Argento has now released a statement that acknowledges the financial transaction but denies that she and Bennett ever had “any sexual relationship.” She writes that she is “deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false” and says of 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 says it was Bourdain, who killed himself in June, who wanted the exchange to be handled privately, because he considered Bennett “dangerous” and worried about possible negative publicity. “We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help and give it to him,” she writes. “Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
In the same statement, Argento also referenced “the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution,” possibly referring to the recent wave of harassment and criticism she has received in the wake of Bourdain’s death. Either way, the denial further complicates what is already one of the queasiest cases in the #MeToo movement.