Prominent Harvey Weinstein prosecutor and MeToo lawyer, Asia Argento, reportedly paid a young actor who accused her of having sexually assaulted him.
Has the # MeToo movement just received a blue eye? Maybe maybe not.
After taking a leading role in the movement to provoke sexual abuse, the Italian actress Asia Argento herself is confronted with accusations: that she had sex with a minor boy in a hotel room in the Los Angeles area in 2013 and was quietly arranged. to pay him shortly afterwards she accused Harvey Weinstein of publicly raping her.
The news was shocking enough to amaze #meToo champions and to look for something to say in response to questions about whether this would, or could, damage #MeToo, the culture-changing movement is about accusations of sexual abuse against powerful to lead men in multiple industries, especially Hollywood.
Laura Palumbo, communications director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in Washington, sounded somewhat abandoned and cautious in what she told USA TODAY on Monday.
"We all collectively process what this means for the # MeToo movement," she said about her organization, which played a leading voice in the fight against sexual violence. "From our perspective, this does not undermine the movement … MeToo has always been bigger than one case or a different story."
But it was a shocking story: The New York Times, citing an encrypted e-mail received from an unidentified sender that contained legal documents, reported at the end of Sunday that Argento, 42, agreed in a private scheme to pay $ 380,000 to a former child actor- turned-rock musician, Jimmy Bennett, who said she had sexually attacked him in a hotel room in Marina del Rey shortly after he turned 17. Argento was then 37 years old.
The age of consent in California is 18, then and now, so it is a crime – rape – to have sex with someone younger than 18. In addition, the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse, although complicated, is about generally 10 years in California.
The Times said that the documents it examined, a selfie of the two in bed. "As part of the agreement, Mr Bennett, now 22, has given the photo and copyright to Mrs. Argento, and three people who were familiar with the case said the documents were authentic," the newspaper reported.
Actor Jimmy Bennett poses with a wax statue of Britney Spears at a Hollywood party of Madame Tussaud on January 23, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
The two actors appeared together in "The Heart is Misleading above all things", a 2004 film that directed Argento, played and helped write. Bennett, who has a credit list dating back to 2002, was 7 when he was cast in the film.
A photo on Argento & # 39; s Instagram page of 9 May 2013 shows a partial picture of both. "Happiest day of my reunion with @jimmymbennett xox", she subtitled the photo.
So far, neither Argento nor Bennett nor their lawyers or representatives have commented on the US TODAY yet. The Times said that Bennett's lawyer, Gordon Sattro, gave them a statement in which he said that Bennett "would continue to do what he has done over the past few months and years, with an emphasis on his music."
The sheriff department of Los Angeles County, the police station of Marina del Rey (just north of LAX), said no report was filed, but detectives are aware of the reports and investigate the case.
"To date, the LASD has not found any police report on criminal activities within our jurisdiction with regard to this incident," according to a statement made by Capt. Darren Harris from the information desk of the sheriff has been posted online. "The LASD Special Victim Bureau tries to reach the reported victim and / or its representatives in an effort to document possible criminal charges in an appropriate manner." .
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Greg Risling, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Public Prosecutor's Office, who set up a special task force to review allegations against Hollywood men accused of sexual offenses, had no information on whether there was a case of allegations against Argento was presented to his office by a police station.
But the proponents of #MeToo were struggling with the news. Argento is one of the key figures in the movement and was one of the first to publicly accuse the fallen film king Weinstein of rape.
"If this has happened, there is no way to justify it, no excuse, even if (Argento) is a victim" of an assault, says lawyer for women's rights Gloria Allred, a # MeToo leader who represents one of the three women whose assault charges against Weinstein are now being prosecuted in the criminal court in Manhattan. Argento is not one of them.
Weinstein has not ordered guilty accusations and has consistently denied any non-consensual sex since he was first accused of sexual abuse during double exhibitions in the Times and The New Yorker in October 2017. On Monday, his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, published a statement that Argento is attacked for "a staggering level of hypocrisy."
"What might be the most blatant, is the timing, which suggests that Argento was at the same time working on her own secret arrangement for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor, that she positioned herself at the forefront of those who condemned Mr. Weinstein. "Brafman said in the statement sent to the US TODAY.
"The pure duplicity of her behavior is very special and should show everyone how badly the accusations against Mr. Weinstein have actually been vetted and cause us all to pause and let a fair trial prevail, not condemnation by fundamental dishonesty," concluded Brafman.
The enemies of Weinstein were adamant that the allegations against Argento do not undermine the allegations against Weinstein or the status of # MeToo movement in general.
"Yes, (rape) is a crime, yes, it can still be prosecuted," Allred said. "But if (Bennett) does not report or if he does not wish to testify, chances are that it will be prosecuted, and prosecutors will generally not force a victim to retire or refuse to testify."
Moreover, says Allred, the meeting between Bennett and Argento has been resolved by a settlement and payment, and "in a way that seems to be satisfactory to both parties." This is routine and there is nothing wrong with such settlements, said Allred, after she had negotiated countless resolutions herself.
"This should not be a black eye for the #MeToo movement," Allred said. "I think the movement will not go on alone, I see it getting bigger, no less."
Similar sentiments came from Tarana Burke, the woman credited with starting the movement in 2007. She said in a series of tweets Monday that the movement will continue even though it is "shocking" to "name some of our faves associated with" hear sexual violence. "
She tweeted that the debate should shift from talking about individuals to talking about sexual violence as a result of power and privileges.
"People will use these recent news stories to discredit this movement – do not let that happen This is what Movement is about It is not a spectator sport It is people who are being generated We are going to say" this is / is not " what this movement is about! "she tweeted.
Lisa Bloom, another Californian lawyer for women's rights and daughter of Allred, says that human beings can be both victim and perpetrator, "holy and monster," at the same time.
"This has no impact on #MeToo, which is not about one person or 10 or even 1000 people, millions of people around the world who have chosen to tell their stories about sexual harassment and sexual assault and wake the world to this epidemic." Bloom told USA TODAY. "There will always be bumps in the road, but we can not lose sight of the power of this movement."
Actress Rose McGowan, another Weinstein prosecutor and # MeToo hero, said she was heartbroken by the news and urged people to be gentle & # 39; to be.
"I met Asia Argento ten months ago." Our commonality is the shared pain to be attacked by Harvey Weinstein, my heart is broken, I will continue my work for victims everywhere, "she said Monday.
"None of us knows the truth of the situation and I'm sure more will be revealed," she added in another tweet. "Be gentle."
Jodi Omear, a spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), a leading anti-rape advocacy group, said that all accusers, or "survivors" as they are called in the movement, should be believed.
"The # MeToo movement has given even more people who have had sexual violence the courage to come forward and tell their story," said Omear in a statement to USA TODAY. "Sexual violence can happen to anyone at any time and we have to take all the accusations seriously so that people keep telling their story and get the justice they deserve."
On Twitter, supporters of the movement tried to reassure others that #MeToo will not be damaged by this episode.
"The ability of a person to be both a perpetrator and a victim of a crime has never nullified the crime of an action." This is not new. "Asia Argento is selfish because it concentrates on a cause for which it has reputational risk – however unfair – but #metoo has not lost any legitimacy," tweeted a user who is called a feminist next door.
"Asia Argento has sexually abused a minor, which is reprehensible and inexcusable." Do I think that means that she was not attacked by Weinstein? "No, I think this means that she has been breathtakingly narcissistic and selfish by making herself a face of #MeToo movement? Absolutely disgraceful," tweet Australian comedian / actress and writer Rosie Waterland.
But Argento was also subjected to Twitter criticism, some of which were unprintable, of people who were never very impressed by the movement, Argento or McGowan.
"#Metoo movement will fail if its leaders are engaged in hypocrisy, nepotism and double standards.The opinion of Rose McGowan should apply to everyone accused, not just for her friend #AsiaArgento," tweeted Christina Hoff Sommers, a conservative self-described feminist and author of the books, "War Against Boys" and "Who Stole Feminism?"
She accused McGowan of arguing for a double standard.
"People who come to defend Argento and tell us not to jump to conclusions did not say" Harvey Weinstein, Trump or Kevin Spacey. "Does she get the benefit of the doubt Bc that she is a woman? , "tweeted Elizabeth Koslo.
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