Entertainment & Arts

Asia Argento: #MeToo figurehead 'accused of sexual assault'

Asia Argento in Cannes (May 2018) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Asia Argento was one of the first women to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault

A leading figure in the #MeToo movement has reportedly been accused of sexual assault involving a minor.

Italian actress Asia Argento was one of the first to speak out against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Legal documents (not seen by the BBC) show she paid a former co-star $380,000 (£298,000) after he alleged she had assaulted him in a hotel room in 2013, the New York Times reports.

A lawyer for Ms Argento declined to comment on the allegations.

The sheriff's department in Los Angeles county, where the alleged assault took place in 2013, have said they are trying to contact the alleged victim.

Ms Argento's accuser, Jimmy Bennett, was 17 at the time. The age of consent in California is 18. Ms Argento would have been 37 at the time of the alleged encounter.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jimmy Bennett pictured in Hollywood in 2015

She is said by the New York Times to have arranged the payment for Mr Bennett "in the months that followed her revelations" about Mr Weinstein in October

A lawyer for Mr Weinstein said the development had revealed "a stunning level of hypocrisy by Asia Argento".

The documents say the encounter traumatised Mr Bennett and threatened his mental health and career, according to the New York Times.

A lawyer for the actor, who played Ms Argento's young son in a 2004 film, is also quoted as saying his client decided to sue Ms Argento after seeing her present herself as a victim of sexual assault.

What does Weinstein's lawyer say?

In the documents seen by the paper, the actress's lawyer says the money was given to Mr Bennett to help him, and that it was Ms Argento who had been preyed upon.

In a statement published by Vanity Fair, a lawyer for Mr Bennett said his client would not comment but would take the "next 24 hours, or longer, to prepare his response".

Ben Brafman, a lawyer for Mr Weinstein, said the development revealed "a stunning level of hypocrisy by Asia Argento".

"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," the lawyer said.

Mr Weinstein was charged in New York this year with sexually assaulting three unnamed women, which he denies.

More than 70 women, including Ms Argento, have accused him of sexual misconduct.

How is #MeToo reacting?

Tarana Burke, founder of the movement, said there was "no model survivor" and warned that the latest accusations would be used by some to discredit #MeToo.

The movement, she tweeted, was there for male victims as well as female.

Another high-profile accuser of Harvey Weinstein and champion of the MeToo movement, Rose McGowan, tweeted that she was heartbroken by the accusations against Ms Argento but would not be deterred from continuing her own work.

More on this story