A woman had accused Batali of forcibly kissing and groping her while taking a selfie at a restaurant in 2017. Batali’s attorney argued that the Boston attack never happened and said the accuser had financial incentive to lie. The judge found him not guilty on Tuesday. The cook had waived his right to a jury trial.
Batali had faced indecent assault and battery charges, punishable by up to 2 1/2 years in prison. Batali’s accuser has filed a pending lawsuit. The 61-year-old former Food Network member’s career collapsed in 2017 amid sexual misconduct allegations from four women.
This is a breaking news update. A previous version of this report can be found below.
The fate of celebrity chef Mario Batali in his Boston sexual misconduct trial is now in the hands of a judge.
Attorneys for both the defense and prosecution rested their cases on Tuesday, the second day of the fast-moving trial in which the former Food Network star waived his right to have a jury decide the verdict.
The case, being tried in Boston City Court, centers on a woman who says Batali kissed and fondled her when she tried to take a selfie in a Boston bar in 2017.
In his closing statements, Batali’s attorney, Antony Fuller, portrayed the victim as an “admitted liar” who was financially motivated as she would seek more than $50,000 in damages from Batali in a separate lawsuit.
“In her world, truth is a flexible concept,” he said, referring to the woman’s recent admission of trying to avoid jury duty by claiming to be psychic, which was a focus of Monday’s hearing.
Fuller also said the numerous photos the woman took with Batali indicate a “completely consensual encounter” in which she does not appear to show any discomfort.
“Photos and videos don’t lie. They have no financial motivation,” he said. “But she does.”
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Prosecutor Nina Bonelli countered in her closing statement that Batali’s lawyers were trying to “demonize” the woman, when in fact her client was on trial for his conduct.
She argued there was “absolutely no denying” in the photos that Batali was drunk and aggressively kissing the woman’s face. What isn’t shown, she said, is what happened off-camera as he grabbed their private areas, too.
Bonelli said the woman tried to “de-escalate” the unwanted touch from the powerful celebrity by simply “smiling her off.”
“The kissing, the groping. She never asked for it. She never agreed,” she said. “She just wanted a selfie.”
The court session is expected to resume in the afternoon when Judge James Stanton could potentially deliver his verdict.
The accuser, a 32-year-old employee at a software company, testified Monday that she felt confused, powerless and embarrassed to tell her story until other women stepped forward to share similar encounters with Batali.
Batali, who pleaded not guilty to charges of indecent assault and assault, could face up to 2 1/2 years in prison and could face a sex offender record if convicted.
The 61-year-old, who once starred in shows like Molto Mario and Iron Chef America, is among a number of high-profile men who have been publicly held accountable during the #MeToo social movement against sexual abuse and harassment in the last years.
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