Asia Argento was accused of sexual assault after her own public accusations against Harvey Weinstein inspired her alleged victim to speak out.
Legal documents uncovered by The New York Times broke news on Sunday that Argento paid actor and musician Jimmy Bennett $380,000. Bennett accused Argento of sexually assaulting him in a hotel room in 2013, when he was 17 and she was 37. The exchanges between Bennett's and Argento's attorneys revealed that the #MeToo movement—the movement Argento herself helped create—was the motivation behind Bennett's decision to come forward with accusations against Argento.
"His feelings about that day were brought to the forefront recently when Ms. Argento took the spotlight as one of the many victims of Harvey Weinstein,” Gordon K. Sattro, Bennett's lawyer, wrote to Argento's legal representation in a document announcing Bennett's intention to sue the actress.
Sattro sent the notice to Argento's lawyer in November, just a month after The New Yorker published Ronan Farrow's Weinstein exposé, which included Argento's account of the disgraced movie mogul forcibly performing oral sex on her.
After the New Yorker report, Argento became one of the #MeToo movement's most vocal advocates, later giving a speech at Cannes—the site of her alleged assault by Weinstein—promising to out the other sexual abusers lurking in Hollywood.
“Sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women, for behavior that does not belong in this industry, does not belong in any industry," Argento told the crowd. "You know who you are. But most importantly, we know who you are. And we’re not going to allow you to get away with it any longer.”
Bennett originally requested $3.5 million in damages from Argento "for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery," according to the Times. He said the trauma from Argento's alleged 2013 assault resulted in him losing a substantial percentage of his income, which he said fell from over $2.7 million to about $60,000 annually in the aftermath of his encounter with her.
Argento quieted Bennett with the $380,000 settlement, but didn't legally restrict his ability to share his account from the night in the hotel room: Argento told her counsel she didn't wish to make her accuser sign a nondisclosure agreement, a legal measure often employed by public figures and employers to keep victims from soiling their reputations with allegations.
“Ultimately, you decided against the non-disclosure language because you felt it was inconsistent with the public messages you’ve conveyed about the societal perils of non-disclosure agreements,” Argento's lawyer, Carrie Goldberg, wrote to Argento. "Bennett could theoretically tell people his claims against you. However, under this agreement, he cannot sue you for them."
Argento and her representation declined to comment on the Times' report.
Bennett's lawyer provided the following response to the story, after declining an interview on his client's behalf: “In the coming days, Jimmy will continue doing what he has been doing over the past months and years, focusing on his music.”