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Authorities Investigate Sexual Assault Claim Against Weinstein Accuser


The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is investigating Italian actress and director Asia Argento over a report that she sexually assaulted a 17-year-old male actor five years ago. Argento is considered a leader of the #MeToo movement and was one of the first women to accuse disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of rape. She says she was attacked by Weinstein at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997. Now, other leaders of the #MeToo movement are urging people not to let the allegation against Argento discredit the cause. Here's NPR's Justin Richmond.

JUSTIN RICHMOND, BYLINE: Asia Argento directed Jimmy Bennett in her 2004 movie "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things." Bennett was just 7 years old when he was cast in the movie. He played Argento's son.


JIMMY BENNETT: (As Young Jeremiah) Mom could be crazy. And I wanted to be just like her.

RICHMOND: The New York Times, which broke the story, reports that Argento and Bennett remained in touch in the decade following the movie and met in 2013 at a hotel in Marina del Rey, Calif. That's where, according to a legal document reviewed by the Times, the sexual assault occurred. Argento reportedly paid Bennett $380,000 this year to keep the incident quiet. The Times says Argento supplied Bennett with alcohol and initiated sex. At that point, Argento was 37, and Bennett was 17. Kim Severson reported the story for the Times. She spoke to NPR's All Things Considered.


KIM SEVERSON: The question's whether this would be a statutory rape because in the state of California you can't consent to sex with an older adult unless you're 18 years old.

RICHMOND: Several leaders of the #MeToo movement reacted to the story on Twitter. Actresses Rosanna Arquette and Rose McGowan, who both say they were also victims of Harvey Weinstein, urged sympathy with all victims of sexual assault. Tarana Burke, who created the #MeToo campaign, said on Twitter, quote, "people will use these recent news stories to try and discredit this movement. Don't let that happen."

We reached out to Argento's representatives for comment. We haven't heard back.

Justin Richmond, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUDOVICO EINAUDI'S "INDACO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.