Asia Argento, one of the most prominent faces of the #MeToo movement, is the subject of a sex-crime investigation.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced in a Monday news release that detectives from its Special Victims Bureau were attempting to speak with Jimmy Bennett, a young actor, after The New York Times reported that Argento paid him following a sexual encounter in a Marina del Rey hotel room in 2013, when he was 17 and she was 37.
The agent of consent in California at the time of the alleged encounter was 18, exposing Argento to a possible criminal charge.
Argento accused movie producer Harvey Weinstein of raping her during the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 when she was 21, according to an article published in New York Magazine in October. Since then, she has become a leader in the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.
A month after Argento’s accusations against Weinstein, the Times reported, Bennett accused Argento of sexually assaulting him in 2013, two months past his 17th birthday.
Through a lawyer, Bennett called the encounter “sexual battery,” and claimed the fallout was so traumatic his mental health and ability to work were impaired, according to legal documents reviewed by the Times.
Comfronted with Bennett's allegations, Argento agreed to pay a total of $380,000 to Bennet over a year and a half, starting with a payment of $200,000 that was made in April, according to a lawyer's letter documenting the deal reviewed by the Times.
Besides legal documents, the Times reviewed photographs that it said were “apparently” taken by Bennett that document him and Argento in bed, naked from the waist up.
Both Argento and Bennet declined to comment on its report, the Times said, but an agent for Argento, Maria Cristina Benelli, told Reuters by email Monday evening that she would reply to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in its Monday afternoon news release that it was “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. To date, the LASD has not located any police report alleging criminal activity within our jurisdiction in relation to this incident.”
Nevertheless, the statement continued, in light of the reports, “the LASD’s Special Victims Bureau is attempting to reach out to the reported victim and/or his representatives in an effort to appropriately document any potential criminal allegations.”
Bennet was a child actor. He met Argento at the age of 7 when he was cast in a movie she directed, starred in and co-wrote: “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.” The 2004 drama was an adaptation of the J.T. LeRoy novel, depicting the complex relationship between Argento’s character, a drug-addicted prostitute, and her son, played by Bennett.
In the movie, Argento's character dresses Bennett's as a girl to help her lure men. One of them rapes the boy.
In real life, Argento is divorced, the mother of two children.
According to documents provided to the Times, Argento and Bennet stayed in touch after the movie wrapped. “Jimmy’s impression of this situation was that a mother-son relationship had blossomed from their experience on set together,” one of the documents says.
Then, on May 9, 2013, the two met in her room at a Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, Calif.. Earlier, Argento posted on Instagram: “Waiting for my long lost son my love @jimmymbennett in trepidation #marinadelrey smoking cigarettes like there was no next week.”
In the comments section of the post, Bennett responded, “I’m almost there!:)”
One of the questions left unanswered by the Times report is who provided the compromising photographs and legal documents detailing Bennett’s allegations to the newspaper. According to its report, the documents were delivered to the Times via encrypted email from an unidentified party.
However, Argento’s antagonist, Harvey Weinstein, currently facing rape charges in New York that could result in his imprisonment for life, has employed Black Cube, a private investigation firm operated by former Israeli intelligence officers, to keep tabs on actresses and journalists he feared could harm him, according to the New Yorker.
After their hotel encounter in Marina del Rey, Bennett and Argento kept in touch on social media.
Later that day, Argento posted a photograph she took of the two with their faces close together to her Instagram account with text saying “Happiest day of my life reunion with @jimmymbennett xox,” adding “jimmy is going to be in my next movie and that is a fact, dig that jack.”
Then, on June 8, a month later, Bennett sent Argento a Twitter message that included a photograph of an engraved bracelet she had given him to commemorate their time together on the set of “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.”
Bennett added three words: “Miss you momma!!!!”