Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Acquitted Of #MeToo Era Sexual Misconduct Charges

Mario Batali
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Celebrity chef Mario Batali was acquitted of sexual assault charges this week, according to Reuters

The 61-year-old restaurateur faced up to two and a half years in prison and could have been forced to register as a sex offender if he had been convicted. Batali was on trial for allegedly groping a woman in a Boston bar in 2017.

Judge James Stanton of the Boston Municipal Court found Batali not guilty of charges of indecent assault and battery, which were filed in 2019.

The publication noted that Natali Tene, 32, claimed Batali had “groped her breasts, buttocks and crotch area and forcibly kissed her while drunkenly posing for selfies with her at a bar near Boston’s Eataly, the Italian market and restaurant he at the time part owned,” according to Reuters.

The judge declared that Tene had “significant credibility issues,” which led to the “not guilty” verdict.

Stanton further asserted that even though the famed chef “did not cover himself in glory on the night in question,” the photos from the evening were enough to cast reasonable doubt on the accusations of sexual misconduct. Tene posed for multiple photos over an extended period of time, plus in the snapshots there are “visible gaps between the two individuals” Reuters noted. 

“Pictures tell a thousand words,” Stanton said while reading the verdict.

Tene’s credibility was further called into question when Batali’s lawyer said that she claimed to be a “clairvoyant” as an excuse for not serving jury duty. The court was also shown a text exchange between the woman and her friend which further tainted her accusations, per Insider. In 2018, the friend told Tene to “just play up the story” when speaking to the press, to which the accuser replied, “Omg of course queen.”

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

Batali’s lawyer, Anthony Fuller, claimed the assault never happened and that Tene was attempting to “cash in” through a pending civil lawsuit seeking more than $50,000 in damages. 

“She lied for fun and she lied for money,” Fuller said. 

It’s worth noting that these accusations aren’t the first time Batali was accused of sexual misconduct. A four-year investigation conducted by the New York attorney general’s office revealed a “culture of harassment,” The New York Times noted, which included at least 20 men and women who claimed to have been sexually assaulted while working at his former Manhattan restaurants, Babbo, Lupa, and Del Posto. 

Batali and his former business partner Joe Bastianich were forced to pay a settlement of $600,000 to the accusers in 2021.

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