Weeks after a New York Times report uncovered allegations that Asia Argento sexually assaulted a then-underage actor, Argento’s lawyer is now claiming that it was the other way around.
Mark Jay Heller, attorney for Argento, said in a lengthy statement this week that Bennett sexually assaulted his client, but “Asia chose at the time not to prosecute Bennett for sexually attacking her.”
“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 5 years ago,” Heller wrote.
According to the New York Times’ report, Bennett and Argento reached a financial agreement after Bennett, now 22, accused Argento of giving him alcohol and sexually assaulting him in a hotel room in 2013, when he was 17 years old and Argento, now 42, was 37.
Heller claimed that Bennett “chose to intrude on [Argento’s relationship with the late Anthony Bourdain] and demand financial payment from Bourdain in consideration for not embarrassing Asia and indirectly Bourdain by virtue of Bourdain’s relationship with Asia.” Bourdain ultimately agreed to pay Bennett the proposed $380,000 to protect Argento, but while Bourdain paid Bennett $250,000 prior to his death in June, Argento “will not permit any portion of the balance of the $380,000 payment to be paid to Bennett,” according to Heller’s recently issued statement.
Argento has denied having ever had a sexual relationship with Bennett. Her recent contention that Bennett sexually assaulted her does not contradict her earlier statement because their relationship was never sexual, but a “long distance friendship,” Heller said. Heller’s statement also claimed that Bennett had previously been charged with “unlawful sex with a minor” and “stalking,” among other things. However, Heller frequently references the start of “Phase Two” of the #MeToo movement, wherein it would be widely recognized that victims of sexual assault do not have to have led a “blemish-less life” in order to be heard — including Bennett.
Heller’s statement explained, “Interestingly enough, despite this crazy tangled web of sexual interactions, Asia believes that pursuant to Phase Two of the #metoo movement Bennett’s troubled history, be it true or false, should not preclude Bennett from making his allegations against her, any more than Asia’s allegations against Harvey Weinstein should not be made.”
“Asia believes that in Phase Two of the #metoo movement, everyone should come forward, tell their story regardless of their past, which in Asia’s circumstances constitutes a misunderstood interaction between her and Bennett that was initiated by Bennett, perpetrated upon Asia, and resulted in her 'freezing' and being placed in a ‘state of shock,’” the statement continued.
In his only public statement since the publication of the New York Times piece, Bennett stated that he waited so long to publicly comment on his allegations out of shame and a fear of becoming part of “the public narrative.”
He explained, “I was underage when the event took place, and I tried to seek justice in a way that made sense to me at the time because I was not ready to deal with the ramifications of my story becoming public.”
[Photo: Asia Argento attends the Closing Ceremony and screening of “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 19, 2018 in Cannes, France. By Andreas Rentz/Getty Images]