CBS News August 21, 2018, 7:39 AM "Almost relief": Lawyer describes Harvey Weinstein's reaction to Asia Argento report
Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is reacting to a report that Italian actress Asia Argento paid off a young actor who accused her of sexual assault. Argento was one of the first women to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct and has since become a prominent figure in the #MeToo movement.
In a New Yorker story last October, Argento accused Harvey Weinstein of rape when she was 21 years old. While none of the charges Weinstein is facing in court, including felony sexual assault, involve Argento, his attorney believes this latest development is a win for him in the court of public opinion
CBS News' Jericka Duncan asked attorney Brafman how Weinstein reacted when he told him about the report that Argento was accused of sexual harassment.
"I don't remember the first words. I remember the tenor of the conversation was almost relief," Brafman said.
He says his client was not surprised by the New York Times article about Arento's alleged payoff of the actor.
"The degree of hypocrisy that this development demonstrates is beyond stunning," Brafman said.
In October, Argento told the New Yorker Weinstein forced himself on her in 1997. In the months following those accusations, Argento reportedly arranged a $380,000 payment to 22-year old actor Jimmy Bennett after Bennett accused her of sexually assaulting him in 2013. At the time, Bennett was 17 – a year younger than California's age of consent.
In 2004 Bennett, then 7 years old, played Argento's son in the "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things " – a film Argento also co-wrote and directed.
Of whether the developments in Argento's case might call into question the validity of other Weinstein accusers, Brafman said, "Well, I know for certain that other Weinstein accusers will be outed, if you will, as not having told the truth based on the investigation we have done to date…Mr. Weinstein, I think, will acknowledge that there were times in the course of his life when he may have acted inappropriately. But there is a huge difference between acting inappropriately and engaging in intentional criminal conduct."
More than 80 women have come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault, and rape. Argento – who dated television star Anthony Bourdain until his death in June – has been one of the most vocal supporters of the #MeToo movement.
Since going viral in October, #MeToo has inspired women around the world to publicly speak out about their mistreatment by powerful men. New York Times reporter and CBS News contributor Jodi Kantor helped break the Weinstein story last year and said the report "certainly complicates" the #MeToo movement.
"Knowing that this woman, who is the leading voice, has this very complicated story in her past certainly makes everybody think differently of her as a character," Kantor said. "All of the women who have come out to tell their stories is that there was a pattern there that transcended race or nationality or different places on the economic spectrum. …So even if the Asia Argento story ends up being very complicated, that's one tiny fraction of the #MeToo stories out there."
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says that although it has no report of the alleged incident, it is reaching out to Bennett and his attorney for an interview. Representatives of Argento and Bennett have not responded to our request for comment. Weinstein has denied all allegations of sexual assault.
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