Chef Mario Battali was acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman at a Boston bar in 2017 when he posed with her for fan “selfies” at the last of several MeToo-era lawsuits involving American celebrities accused of indecent behavior toward women.
In a non-jury trial, Judge James Stanton of the Boston Municipal Court found 61-year-old Batali not guilty on charges of indecent assault and beating in 2019.
If convicted, Batali could face up to two and a half years in prison and registration as a sex offender.
The trial has become the only criminal case against Batali, once a member of the popular Food Network and star of culinary and talk show ABC The Chew, among the many accusations that MeToo-era women have leveled against the famous chef.
In court, 32-year-old prosecutor Natalie Tene testified Monday that Batali forcibly touched her breasts, buttocks and groin area before inviting her back to his hotel room when a drunk posed with her for a selfie at a bar near Boston’s Eataly. the Italian market and the restaurant that belonged to him at the time.
Tene said she was initially “shocked” and “embarrassed” about the incident, and said so only after Eater.com posted detailed allegations in December 2017 by four women, who also said Batali had inappropriately touched on the incident. them for at least two decades.
“I want to be able to take control of what happened and speak, tell my story, tell the truth – and everyone is responsible for their actions,” said Tene.
Batali’s lawyer, Anthony Fuller, objected that the attack had never taken place.
Fuller accused Tene of fabricating an attack using “selfish, biased testimony” to “earn” her civil lawsuit against the chef, who is demanding more than $ 50,000 ($ 71,705) in damages.
“She lied for fun and lied for money,” Fuller told the judge in his closing remarks.
Fuller tried to undermine Tene’s credibility by asking her about text messages with a friend in which she joked about meeting Batali and discussed selling her photos and bank notes showing she had dinner at Eataly a few weeks after the event.
Batali decided not to testify during the trial.
Shortly after reporting on Eater.com, Batali was fired from The Chew and later severed ties with restaurants including New York’s Babbo and Del Posto, to which he partially owned.
He dismissed allegations of sexual assault, but apologized for “deeply inappropriate” behavior.