Disgraced celebrity chef Mario Batali surprised a Boston courtroom on Monday when he asked a judge to waive his right to a jury in a criminal trial for a sexual assault allegation.
Minutes later, her accuser spoke up, describing a selfie near her now-closed Boston restaurant that descended into a nightmare of groped, non-consensual kisses.
Batali, a former Food Network star, upheld his decision to ask Boston City Court Judge James Stanton to decide his fate just before jury selection begins on Monday. The 61-year-old pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of indecent assault and assault for a 2017 incident.
“Absolutely,” Batali told Stanton on Monday, indicating he understood what he was doing.
Natalie Tene – who has already been registered with her name as an alleged victim of sexual assault – quickly began alleging how what started with her taking a surreptitious photo of Batali on April 1, 2017 ended with a crime.
Tene told the judge that the incident started after Batali noticed her taking her photo and invited her to take one together.
As she described taking a dozen selfies with Batali, she said the chef started touching her out of sight of the camera. She also said Batali’s eyes were closed in the majority of the photos and claimed “this guy was lost” at the time.
“While that was happening, his hands were in sensitive areas, touching me, touching my body, so it was like a selfie, but other things were happening simultaneously,” Tene told the court, noting Batali n kept telling him to “get another one.”
Tene added that Batali was “grabbing me in a way…I’ve never been touched like that before,” she said, indicating that he was also “squeezing” her vagina.
“There was touching on my chest, touching on my rear end…touching on my face…his tongue in my ear,” she added, noting that at the time of the alleged assault, she was “really shocked, surprised, alarmed”. .”
“There was just a lot going on.”
Batali has strongly denied any criminal conduct, despite at least four women who have come out against the former television chief and accused him of sexual misconduct.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Anthony Fuller asked Tene if she continued to take pictures with Batali despite the alleged assault.
Tene admitted there was a three-minute gap between some of the photos. She insisted, however, that she was shocked by the whole encounter and noted that in one of the photos of the close couple, Batali was “grabbing my ass in that photo”.
” This does not happen. There was no indecent assault. In the end, you’ll realize she’s not telling the truth,” Fuller said during her opening statement.
Prosecutors allege Batali assaulted Tene while posing with her at Towne Stove and Spirits in Boston. The since-closed bar was located near the local outpost of Eataly, Italian chain Batali once partly owned.
The photos – and Tene’s face – were not shown to the public on Monday to protect her identity, although she was identified by name in court.
“As he pulled her face to her face, kissing her, his right hand touched her chest, buttocks and crotch,” Assistant District Attorney Nina Bonelli said during opening arguments.
Tene also filed a civil lawsuit against Batali, alleging the incident resulted in “serious emotional distress.” She is just one of many women who have accused Batalli of misconduct, which forced the restaurateur to withdraw from his empire and quit the ABC cooking show. chewing.
“I made many mistakes and I’m so sorry for disappointing my friends, family, fans and team,” Batali said in a December 2017 newsletter amid the swirling accusations. “My behavior was wrong and there is no excuse. I take full responsibility.”
A year later, the New York Times and CBS’ 60 minutes both reported allegations of sexual assault against Batali. The New York Police Department, however, told the Time at the time that they closed the investigations on Batali because they did not have enough evidence to make an arrest.
Since the allegations, Batali has been largely purged as the face of a national restaurant empire. In 2019, the chef revealed that several people, including his longtime partner Joe Bastianich, had bought out his share in the vast company.
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