Asia Argento will not pay the remainder of a $380,000 payment to sexual assault accuser Jimmy Bennett, her new attorney Mark Jay Heller said in a lengthy statement on Tuesday. Bennett has already received $250,000.
The lawyer also said that his client denies having a sexual relationship with the actor, “Her relationship with Bennett was never sexual, but rather the relationship was a long distance friendship over many years.”
“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,” he continued in his letter, titled “Asia Argento launches Phase Two of the #MeToo Movement.”
“However, Asia’s courage to originally make the accusations against Harvey Weinstein has not waned and she believes that whether or not the public finally realizes that she did nothing wrong and was herself a victim, that Phase Two of the #metoo movement dictates that the voice of a victim, even one with a history that may be in question, should be heard and she is hopeful that in the Court of Public Opinion it will ultimately be determined that Asia never initiated an inappropriate sexual contact with a minor, but rather she was attacked by Bennett and might even be suffering the fallback of a smear campaign by those already accused who may have a vested interest in their accusers being denied credibility.”
Representatives for Bennett did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Last month, the New York Times reported that it obtained legal documents sent through encrypted emails showing Argento agreed to pay Bennett nearly $400,000 after he accused her of sexually assaulting him at a Marina del Rey, California, hotel room in 2013. Bennett, who played Argento’s her son in the 2004 movie “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things,” said that he had just turned 17 at the time of their encounter (Argento was 37 ). The age of consent in California is 18.
Argento became a prominent figure in the #MeToo movement after coming forward last year with her own sexual assault accusations against Harvey Weinstein during the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Argento denied Bennett’s accusations but told The Guardian that she, Bennett and her boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, mutually agreed to handle the matter privately, with Bourdain paying Bennett $380,000 for his silence.
“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 said.
“Anthony insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted. Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such a person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us.”
Bourdain died by suicide in June.
Despite the “crazy tangled web of sexual interactions,” Heller said Asia “does not intend to prosecute Bennett for his conduct and recognizes that his unfortunate past, his stalled acting career, and a lawsuit against his own parents for allegedly misappropriating more than a million and a half dollars from his account might explain his desperation to seek money from Asia and Bourdain for this falsely alleged incident that took place more than five years ago.”