Woman who accused celebrity chef Mario Batali of groping her testifies in criminal trial | CNN


A woman who says she was sexually assaulted by celebrity chef Mario Batali spoke out Monday on the first day of her Boston criminal trial, testifying that he groped her during an impromptu selfie session in 2017.

Natali Tene said she posed for pictures with Batali while out of frame he took advantage of the dazzled boss as she stood close to him for the pictures.

“His right hand is all over my breasts, all over my behind, between my legs,” Tene said. “I’ve never been caught like this before… squeezing my vagina and getting closer to him. As if it was a normal way to attract someone.

Batali is charged with indecent assault and battery related to alleged groping at a Boston restaurant, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

He denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty. Defense attorney Anthony Fuller said in his opening statement on Monday, “The photos and videos do not support his testimony.”

Batali waived his right to a jury trial in favor of a bench trial, which the judge accepted. He was indicted in 2019 and faces a civil suit over the same incident.

Multiple allegations against Batali – a chef and restaurateur who has appeared on TV cooking shows for more than two decades – surfaced in 2017 after restaurant news website Eater reported four accounts from women who claimed that Batali “had touched them inappropriately in behavior that appears to span at least two decades.

Batali walked away from public view following the allegations and his restaurant group severed ties with him in 2018.

The New York Police Department also investigated sexual misconduct allegations against Batali, but closed both of its investigations in 2019 without pressing charges.

The evening began, Tene testified Monday, when she met a friend around 9 p.m. on March 31, 2017, at Towne Stove and Spirits, a Boston restaurant the couple frequented.

Tene recognized Batali sitting next to her at the bar around midnight, she said. Batali was a few seats away when she tried to secretly take a picture of him on her phone, she testified.

Tene said her friend told her that Batali caught her sneaking the photo and wanted her to come, presumably to delete the photo. Tene approached and apologized to Batali, she said, promising to delete the photo if he wanted.

“He said, ‘No, that was fine, no worries, let’s take some selfies instead,'” Tene said.

Tene took about 10 selfies with her phone around 12:37 a.m., she said, and their heads, faces, shoulders and anything else that could fit in the frame were visible.

“He has his face pressed against mine and he pulls my body closer to his,” she said.

“He kisses the side of my face. He has his other arm wrapped behind me,” Tene said as the photos were displayed in court. She noted that they took a few pictures, saying they weren’t good because they weren’t looking at the camera.

“His hands were in sensitive areas, touching me, touching my body,” she said. “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.”

Batali kept asking to take more selfies and can be heard asking “Does it work” in one of the live photos, she said.

“It all happened so fast and it happened all the time, in different parts,” Tene said, recapping the ways Batali allegedly caught her. “I sort of froze to be honest. Smile to defuse the situation. A little nervous, shocked, alarmed,” she said.

Tene noticed that Batali’s eyes weren’t open in some of the photos and that he reeked of alcohol, she testified. “This guy was wasted, for lack of a better term,” Tene said.

Batali allegedly then asked Tene to come to her hotel room, she testified, saying she got chills when he asked.

“Kind of like, mortified, disgusted,” Tene said. “This feeling that it was not right. Overall it was very uncomfortable.

Tene left and returned home. She later told her friend about the alleged attack and said the couple had agreed never to eat at Eataly again, an Italian food market co-owned by Batali at the time.

Tene later testified that she spoke to an Eater reporter, detailing her story after the reporter wrote about other women who were allegedly caught by Batali, Tene said.

Tene has hired an attorney and filed a civil suit, she said, but says she is not looking for money.

“It happened to me and it’s my life and I want to take control of what happened and come forward and say my part,” Tene said.

Fuller, the defense attorney, cross-examined Tene, asking about the night of the alleged assault and his subsequent motives.

Fuller skimmed through each of the images Tene took of her and Batali and focused on one photo that showed a gap between where they were standing, pointing out that the tiled floor was visible in the photo between the two.

“He was grabbing you, pulling you closer, wasn’t he?” asked Fuller, who said there was about eight inches of space between the two.

“He definitely was,” Tene replied.

“It doesn’t look like that in this photo,” Fuller said.

“He grabs my ass,” Tene said.

Fuller highlighted a time gap between the first batch of photos and the second batch, three minutes later. Fuller maintained that the time gap showed she was not in danger. He also challenged Tene on her facial expressions in the photos, saying it wasn’t a grimace like she said, but a smile.

Tene was also questioned about eating at restaurants owned by Batali, although she told investigators in a deposition that the idea of ​​eating at those restaurants was disgusting. Fuller showed her bank statements which revealed she ate at Eataly with a friend who knew about the alleged attack.

Fuller also showed the court photos taken at the same bar, Towne Stove and Spirits, where the alleged attack took place, the night before Eater published an article with his allegations.

“Towne wasn’t the scary place, he was the scary person. I was pretty comfortable there,” Tene replied when asked why she hadn’t been triggered by being in one place and coming back multiple times after the alleged attack.

Tene also took issue with Fuller’s questions about financial motives and hiring legal counsel.

“I’m not looking for anything, I’m not looking for any particular amount,” Tene said. “What other way is there to rectify this situation? I have never been in such a situation before.

Fuller spent the rest of his cross-examination trying to establish inconsistencies in Tene’s story, talking about her alleged attempts to evade jury duty and alleging she laughed off the incident over text. with his friends.

Prosecutors plan to call a witness on Tuesday morning who they say heard Tene’s full story about a week after the alleged groping incident.

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