Celebrity chef Mario Batali acquitted of sexually assaulting woman in Boston

BOSTON, May 10 (Reuters) – Chef Mario Batali was acquitted on Tuesday of sexually assaulting a woman at a Boston bar in 2017 as he posed with her for fan “selfie” photos, the judge doubting of the credibility of the accuser in the latest #MeToo-era lawsuit involving an American celebrity accused of misconduct towards women.

At the non-jury trial, Boston City Court Judge James Stanton found Batali, 61, not guilty of a 2019 charge of indecent assault and assault.

Natali Tene, 32, had testified that Batali fondled her breasts, buttocks and crotch and forcibly kissed her while drunk posing for selfies with her at a bar near Eataly in Boston, the market and Italian restaurant which he partly owned at the time.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Announcing his verdict, the judge said he concluded that Tene had “significant credibility issues”.

Stanton said that while Batali “did not cover himself in glory on the night in question”, the photos themselves created reasonable doubt that an assault had occurred given the time Tene had. spent posing for them and the visible discrepancies between the two individuals.

“Pictures are worth a thousand words,” Stanton said.

Batali showed no visible reaction to the announcement of the verdict and left the courtroom surrounded by reporters without comment. If convicted, Batali could have faced up to 2½ years in prison and be registered as a sex offender.

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

The lawsuit was the only criminal case brought against Batali, once a staple of the popular Food Network and a star of the ABC cooking and talk show “The Chew,” among multiple #MeToo-era charges brought by women against the famous chef.

Tene said she was initially “embarrassed” by the incident and only came forward after the Eater.com website in December 2017 detailed the allegations of four other women who said Batali had touched them. inappropriately for at least two decades.

“I want to be able to take control of what happened and come forward, say what I want, let the truth be known – and hold everyone accountable for their actions,” Tene said. .

Batali’s attorney, Anthony Fuller, countered that the assault never happened and said Tene lied to ‘cash in’ thanks to his ongoing civil lawsuit against the chief seeking more than $50,000 in damages and interests.

“She lied for fun and she lied for money,” Fuller told the judge during her closing argument.

Stanton also cited Tene’s “gross” misconduct in an unrelated assault case as contributing to his doubts about his credibility. While completing a questionnaire for jury duty in that other case, rather than choosing the option of identifying as a victim of crime to get out of jury service, Tene falsely claimed to be ‘clairvoyant’, the lawyers say. by Batali.

After text messages Batali’s lawyers obtained showed Tene discussed the case with a friend and conducted outside research in violation of court orders, prosecutors in neighboring Middlesex County charged her with contempt. . Tene solved this case last week.

Shortly after the Eater.com website reported, Batali was fired from “The Chew” and later cut ties with restaurants, including New York’s Babbo and Del Posto, which he partly owned. He denied the sexual assault allegations but apologized for his “deeply inappropriate” behavior.

Batali and his business partner agreed in July to pay at least 20 former employees $600,000 to resolve allegations by the New York attorney general that their Manhattan restaurants were plagued by sexual harassment. Read more

The explosion of the #MeToo movement in 2017 revealed patterns of sexual harassment or abuse of women in multiple spheres of American life. American celebrities convicted in #MeToo-era criminal trials include film producer Harvey Weinstein and comedian Bill Cosby, although Cosby’s conviction was overturned on appeal. Read more

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nathalie Raymond

Thomson Reuters

Nate Raymond reports on federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.

#Celebrity #chef #Mario #Batali #acquitted #sexually #assaulting #woman #Boston

Leave a Comment