Actor and musician Jimmy Bennett, 22, said in a statement Wednesday that he hadn’t previously spoken out about the alleged 2013 incident because he wanted to handle it in private.
“I was ashamed and afraid to be part of the public narrative,” Bennett said. “I was underage when the event took place, and I tried to seek justice in a way that made sense to me at the time because I was not ready to deal with the ramifications of my story becoming public.”
The New York Times reported Sunday that Argento, 42, reached a $380,000 legal settlement with Bennett last year over an alleged sexual encounter they had in a California hotel room in 2013. He was 17 at the time. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.
“At the time I believed there was still a stigma to being in the situation as a male in our society,” Bennett said Wednesday. “I didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy.”
Earlier Wednesday, celebrity news site TMZ published a photo that appeared to show Argento and Bennett in bed together. The image, in which both Argento and Bennett appear to be topless, was one of four taken by Bennett in 2013 during his encounter with Argento , according to TMZ.
Argento denied Tuesday that she had a sexual relationship with Bennett, who played her character’s son in a 2004 movie.
"I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett," she said, adding that their years of friendship ended when he “unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money” from her after she went public with her accusations against Weinstein.
She said Bennett targeted her because he knew that her boyfriend at the time, the late celebrity chef and TV regular Anthony Bourdain, “was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect.”
Both Bourdain and Bennett wanted the situation to be handled privately, Argento said, so to protect their reputations, Bourdain paid Bennett.
"Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life," she said.
Bourdain committed suicide in June.
In a complaint obtained by the Times, Bennett said he had viewed his bond with Argento as a "mother-son relationship." In a notice of intent to sue that his lawyer sent in November to Argento's lawyer at the time, Bennett's attorney said he was traumatized by the incident, which "hindered Mr. Bennett's work and income and threatened his mental health," the Times reported.
Officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Monday that they are "looking into" Bennett's allegations and want to speak with Bennett, The Associated Press reported.