Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto (Getty Images)

Asia Argento’s lawyer, Mark Jay Heller, has released a lengthy statement regarding the recent New York Times investigation into allegations that the actor agreed to pay $380,000 to Jimmy Bennett, a former co-star who claims Argento sexually assaulted him in 2013 when he was 17 years old. In the statement, titled “Asia Argento Launches Phase Two of the #MeToo Movement,” Heller addresses a number of topics, including the payment, Argento’s continued assertion of innocence, and how she defines #MeToo’s second phase.

Heller reiterates that Argento’s relationship with Bennett “was never sexual, but rather the relationship was a long distance friendship over many years.” Responding to recently released texts and photos from TMZ that find Argento admitting to having sex with Bennett, Heller says that the event constituted assault on the part of Bennett.

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“As revealed in texts messages published by TMZ, Asia stated ‘The horny kid jumped me…I had sex with him it felt weird,’” the statement reads. “She went on to relate that she became ‘frozen’ when he was on top of her and he told her that she had been his sexual fantasy since he was 12 years old. Asia chose at the time not to prosecute Bennett for sexually attacking her.” Later, the statement adds that “Asia never initiated an inappropriate sexual contact with a minor, but rather she was attacked by Bennett and might even be suffering the fallback of a smear campaign by those already accused who may have a vested interest in their accusers being denied credibility.”

The piece goes on to note that Bennett was charged with “unlawful sex with a minor,” “stalking,” and “child pornography,” and “child exploitation” in 2014. It also says Argento “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 five years ago.”

Regarding the $380,000 payment, the statement says that only $250,000 had been paid and that Argento will not be paying the rest. “Asia recognizes that this may very well inspire Bennett to make further false allegations against her and attempt to besmirch her reputation and diminish her credibility in her accusations against Harvey Weinstein,” Heller writes.

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As for phase two of #MeToo, which was founded by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, the statement defines it as believing that “all victims, whether or not they have led a blemish-less life, should have the courage to come forward and not be afraid that the abuse that they are complaining of will be colored by any negative dynamics in their history.”

The statement elaborates:

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.” Asia is hopeful that as both Phase One and Phase Two of the #metoo movement evolves that Society will understand that no one is perfect, that everyone has the right to be heard and that Justice will ultimately prevail under circumstances where Justice will be tempered with mercy, compassion, forgiveness and understanding. The mere indictment by Public Opinion is not enough to condemn a person of a crime and character assassination is no different than the scandalistic nature of what many decry in this era as purported “fake news.”

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Argento’s been a vocal proponent of the #MeToo movement since going public about her sexual assault at the hands of Harvey Weinstein. Her own allegations have seen her fired as a judge on X Factor Italy.

Read the full statement here.

[via The Wrap]

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