The authorities in California said Monday that they were looking into allegations that the actress and director Asia Argento had sexually assaulted a young man in a hotel room when he was 17.
In a brief statement, Darren Harris, a captain with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said the agency was aware of the alleged 2013 episode, which was the subject of a report in The New York Times.
Captain Harris said that law enforcement officials had not yet “located any police report alleging criminal activity” in connection to it. But he said they were reaching out to the young actor, Jimmy Bennett, and his representatives in order to document any possible criminal activity.
A lawyer for Mr. Bennett said late Monday that he had still not been contacted by law enforcement officials; the lawyer, Gordon K. Sattro, would not comment further.
[The founder of the #MeToo movement, said the latest accusations should not discredit it]
The announcement came just a day after The Times reported that Ms. Argento — a leader of the #MeToo movement who was among the first women to publicly accuse the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault — arranged to pay $380,000 to Mr. Bennett, who said she had sexually assaulted him in a hotel room in Marina del Rey, Calif., an unincorporated, upscale harbor community on the west side of Los Angeles County.
Documents obtained by The Times outline the allegations and the subsequent arrangement for payments. The documents include a selfie dated May 9, 2013, of Ms. Argento, who was 37 at the time, lying in bed with Mr. Bennett, who was 10 months shy of being 18, the age of consent in California. On that day, the pair, who had acted together, met for a reunion in Ms. Argento’s room at a Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey.
A notice of intent to sue said that after Ms. Argento was left alone with Mr. Bennett, she gave him alcohol to drink and showed him a series of notes she had written to him on hotel stationery. Then she kissed him, pushed him back on the bed, removed his pants and performed oral sex, the document says. She climbed on top of him and the two had intercourse, the document also says.
The Times has tried repeatedly to obtain a response to the allegations from Ms. Argento and her representatives but has been unsuccessful. Mr. Bennett, who lives in Los Angeles, has not yet agreed to be interviewed.
Reactions to the revelations have poured in since the allegations surfaced, with many, including a lawyer for Mr. Weinstein, accusing Ms. Argento of hypocrisy.
In October, The New Yorker published an article that included Ms. Argento among 13 women who accused Mr. Weinstein of harassment and rape. The next month, Mr. Bennett sent his demand for money to a lawyer who was representing Ms. Argento at the time.
Mr. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to six felony counts in New York, including first-degree rape; none are related to Ms. Argento. His lawyers have said their relationship was consensual.
“What is perhaps most egregious, is the timing, which suggests that at the very same time Argento was working on her own secret settlement for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor, she was positioning herself at the forefront of those condemning Mr. Weinstein, despite the fact that her sexual relationship with Mr. Weinstein was between two consenting adults which lasted for more than four years,” Mr. Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said in a statement. “The sheer duplicity of her conduct is quite extraordinary and should demonstrate to everyone how poorly the allegations against Mr. Weinstein were actually vetted and accordingly, cause all of us to pause and allow due process to prevail, not condemnation by fundamental dishonesty.”
Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, said the accusations should not discredit the movement, but rather reinforce its universal scope. Many others echoed her thoughts, arguing that the new allegations would allow the movement to expand and gain nuance.
“People will use these recent news stories to try and discredit this movement — don’t let that happen,” she tweeted on Monday. “This is what Movement is about. It’s not a spectator sport. It is people generated.”
However, Rosanna Arquette, who also accused Mr. Weinstein of sexual misconduct, questioned The Times’s report and cautioned people to wait for Ms. Argento’s response.
“The timing of this story is suspect,” Ms. Arquette wrote, adding, as many others have, that the allegations against Ms. Argento should be considered in the context of the cyclical nature of abuse.