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Celebrity chef Mario Batali not guilty in indecent assault trial

By Simon Druker
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Celebrity chef Mario Batali not guilty in indecent assault trial
Former celebrity chef Mario Batali was found not guilty Tuesday of indecent assault, stemming from a 2017 incident at a Boston restaurant in which a woman accused him of groping her. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

May 10 (UPI) -- Celebrity chef Mario Batali was found not guilty of indecent assault and battery by a Boston Municipal Court judge Tuesday afternoon.

Batali, 61, was accused of groping and forcibly kissing a woman at a Boston restaurant in March 2017 and was formally charged in 2019.

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The former TV personality had elected to face trial by judge, rather than jury. He also faces a civil trial over the same incident.

Judge James Stanton found Batali's behavior on the night in question "not befitting of a public person of his stature."

The judge also found Batali's accuser had "significant credibility issues" supporting the "contention that her motive was financial gain."

The celebrity chef stepped away from day-to-day operations of his restaurant empire, as well as his co-hosting position on the lifestyle program. The Chew, in late 2017 after sexual harassment allegations against him came to light.

Batali then sold his entire stake in a group of restaurants he shared with the Bastianich family in 2019, after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct.

On Monday, Natali Tene testified she ended up taking pictures with Batali at the restaurant, when he began groping her out of the frame of the camera.

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"He has his face pressed up against mine and he's pulling my body closer to his," Tene testified.

"He's kissing the side of my face. He has his other arm wrapped behind me. His hands were in sensitive areas, touching me, touching my body. It was like a selfie, but other things were happening simultaneously. His other hand that can't be seen is touching my body in sensitive areas."

District Attorney Kevin Hayden said in a statement, While we're disappointed in the judge's verdict, my office will not waiver in our support for the victim in this case. It can be incredibly difficult for a victim to disclose a sexual assault.

"When the individual who committed such an abhorrent act is in a position of power or celebrity, the decision to report an assault can become all the more challenging and intimidating.

"I'm grateful that the victim in this case made the decision to come forward, and to every survivor of sexual assault who makes that difficult decision.

"My office is available to anyone who has experienced sexual violence in Suffolk County to ensure that are met with the level of compassion and care they deserve and that they have access to the services and resources they may need."

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