Asia Argento denies sexual assault allegation, claims accuser extorted her

Italian actress Asia Argento is denying allegations that she had a sexual relationship with an underage male, saying she paid him a settlement of $380,000 so he would stop interfering in her life. 

"I have never had any sexual relationship with [accuser Jimmy] Bennett," Argento said in a statement obtained by journalist Yashar Ali.

"I was linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequent to my exposure in the [Harvey] Weinstein case, Bennett — who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages — unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me." 

Argento, one of the first women to publicly accuse media mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, said Bennett targeted her because he knew that her boyfriend, the chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain, "was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect."

She said Bourdain "insisted" they handle the matter privately. 

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"We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett's demand for help and give it to him," Argento said in the statement. "Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any intrusions in our life." 

Bourdain killed himself in June. 

This is the first statement Argento has made since The New York Times released a report about her settlement to Bennett, who says she sexually assaulted him when he was 17 and under the legal age of consent in California. 

Argento and the lawyer representing her declined to comment for the article. The lawyer who handled the case, Carrie Goldberg, did not respond to The Hill's request for comment. 

Bennett in his notice of intent to sue said the incident traumatized him, hampering his ability to work and damaging his mental condition. Bennett asked for $3.5 million in damages. 

Argento in her suit against Weinstein accused him of raping her in 1997 when she was 21. Weinstein's lawyers have said their relationship was consensual.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to six felony counts in New York, including first-degree rape.

The actress has become a prominent voice in the "Me Too" movement against sexual assault and harassment.