Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer has responded to claims that Asia Argento paid off a child star who she allegedly sexually assaulted when he was 17 years old.
The actor was one of the first women to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct last year. She claimed the Hollywood producer had raped her in 1997. Weinstein has denied all allegations levelled against him.
A month after Argento came forward with her claims against Weinstein, actor and musician Jimmy Bennett sent Argento a notice of intent to sue her for $3.5 million (£2.7 million) in damages for “the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery”. The two appeared together in the 2004 movie The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things and had remained close.
Bennett claims that in May 2013 he met Argento at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Marina Del Rey, California where she allegedly gave him alcohol and had sexual intercourse with him. At the time, he had only just turned 17, while Argento was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.
Weinstein’s lawyer Ben Brafman responded to the claims in a statement given to The Hollywood Reporter. He said: “This development reveals a stunning level of hypocrisy by Asia Argento, one of the most vocal catalysts who sought to destroy Harvey Weinstein.
“What is perhaps most egregious is the timing, which suggests that at the very same time Argento was working on her own secret settlement for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor, she was positioning herself at the forefront of those condemning Mr. Weinstein, despite the fact that her sexual relationship with Mr. Weinstein was between two consenting adults which lasted for more than four years.”
Brafman added: “The sheer duplicity of her conduct is quite extraordinary and should demonstrate to everyone how poorly the allegations against Mr. Weinstein were actually vetted and accordingly, cause all of us to pause and allow due process to prevail, not condemnation by fundamental dishonesty.”
Argento’s fellow Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan has also reacted to the allegations, saying her “heart is broken.”
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.
— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) August 20, 2018
“I got to know Asia Argento ten months ago,” she wrote on Twitter. “Our commonality is the shared pain of being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. My heart is broken. I will continue to work on behalf of victims everywhere.”
She added a warning to her followers not to jump to conclusions, writing: “None of us know the truth of the situation and I’m sure more will be revealed. Be gentle.”
The New York Times reports that Bennett’s lawyer said in the notice of intent that the young actor’s work and income had been affected and his mental health threatened by the incident. Bennett made more than $2.7 million (£2.1 million) in the five years before the hotel meeting with Argento in 2013, but that income had dropped to an average of $60,000 (£47,000) a year afterward. His lawyer said the actor attributed that drop to the trauma he suffered after the meeting with Argento.
According to documents sent to The Times, Argento paid Bennett $380,000 (£298,000), with a letter sent in April confirming the final details of the deal and a payment schedule. Carrie Goldberg, Argento’s lawyer, reportedly wrote in the letter: “We hope nothing like this ever happens to you again. 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.”
Argento and her legal team have not responded to the claims. Bennett’s lawyer, Gordon K. Sattro, said his client would not agree to be interviewed.
“In the coming days, Jimmy will continue doing what he has been doing over the past months and years, focusing on his music,” he said.