On Wednesday, TMZ published a series of texts allegedly between actress Asia Argento and one of her friends indicating that Argento did indeed have sex with her former costar Jimmy Bennett when she was 37 and he was 17.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that Argento, a major figure in the #MeToo movement who had accused Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of raping her at the Cannes Film Festival when she was 21, had reportedly paid $380,000 to Bennett, who claimed she sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room when he was 17. Bennett sent a letter of intent to sue Argento that claimed that Argento had kissed him, removed his pants and performed oral sex on him, then had sex with him.
After the Times report, detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department started investigating the $380,000 payment.
On Tuesday, Argento denied having sex with Bennett, suggesting that Bennett had extorted Argento and her late-boyfriend, famed chef Anthony Bourdain. Argento claims the $380,000 payment was Bourdain's idea.
But TMZ published texts that seemingly counter Argento’s narrative. In one text Argento admits, “I had sex with him it felt weird. I didn't know he was a minor until the shakedown letter.” In another text she allegedly wrote, "It wasn't raped [sic] but I was frozen. He was on top of me. After, he told me I had been his sexual fantasy since was 12.”
In the state of California, it is considered statutory rape if an adult has sex with someone under the age of 18, regardless of whether the act was consensual or whether the minor initiated the act.