#MeToo Movement leading figure Asia Argento denies assaulting underage American actor

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/8/22 7:39:32

Italian filmmaker Asia Argento, one of the #MeToo Movement leading figures and Harvey Weinstein's first accusers, denied claims in a statement Tuesday that she had sexual relationship with an underage American actor.

"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," She said in the statement appeared on Twitter.

Argento is best known for her roles in the films "XXX," "Land of the Dead" and "Marie Antoinette" and so on. Argento alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by the disgraced Hollywood mogul Weinstein in the 1990s.

"I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false," she said, noting that she had never had any sexual relationship with her accuser Jimmy Bennett, a young Los Angeles actor and rock musician.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Argento quietly arranged to pay 380,000 US dollars to Bennett in the months that followed her revelations about Weinstein last October. Bennett said that Argento had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room in 2013, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. The age of consent in the western US state of California is 18. Argento was 37 that year.

Bennett was 7 when he played a son of Argento in "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things," a 2004 film Argento directed and starred. They met for a reunion in her room at a Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, California, on May 9, 2013. They had intercourse in the hotel, the New York Times reported.

Argento said in the statement that she was linked to Bennett during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequent to her 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 damage - unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me."

Argento said the 380,000 dollars payment was made by her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain who "was a man of great perceived wealth and has his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect."

Bourdain was afraid of "possible negative publicity" and insisted "the matter be handled privately," Argento noted.

"We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett's demand for help," and give the money to him, she said.

"Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life," Argento concluded.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department issued a statement regarding the incident on Monday.

"The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) is aware of the media reports naming Asia Argento as being involved in an alleged 2013 incident in an area policed by our Marina Del Rey Station," said the statement.

"To date, the LASD has not located any police report alleging criminal activity within our jurisdiction in relation to this incident," said the agency, adding that the LASD's Special Victims Bureau is attempting to reach out to the reported victim and his representatives in an effort to appropriately document any potential criminal allegations.

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