Judge rules Mario Batali not guilty of sexual assault in Boston trial

Following a two-day trial in Boston Municipal Court, celebrity chef Mario Francesco Batali was found not guilty on Tuesday of charges of indecent sexual assault and battery. The celebrity chef never took the witness stand in his defense.

Batali, who pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery in 2019, faced up to 2 1/2 years in prison and would have been needed to register as a sex offender if convicted.

Batali’s accuser testified in court that she was “shocked, surprised, and alarmed” when the 61-year-old former Food Network celebrity violently kissed and grabbed her in a Boston restaurant while taking a selfie in 2017.

The 32-year-old software firm employee said she felt befuddled and powerless to stop Batali from touching her without her permission. She also filed a complaint in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, claiming that Batali’s lawyer provided her a financial incentive to lie.

Batali is one of many high-profile men who have faced public scrutiny due to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse in recent years.

He stepped down from day-to-day operations at his restaurant empire and left the ABC food show “The Chew” after four women accused him of inappropriate touching in 2017.

Batali also publicly apologized, conceding that the charges “match up” with his actions.

He admitted in an email newsletter at the time, “I have made many mistakes.” “There are no excuses for my behavior. I take full responsibility.”

Batali waived his right to a jury trial on Monday in an unexpected move, deciding instead to have the judge decide his fate.

Batali’s lawyer argued that the Boston assault never happened and that the accuser isn’t a credible witness, citing the woman’s previous admission of claiming to be clairvoyant to escape jury duty. In that case, she was also accused of disobeying the judge’s orders to keep an open mind and refrain from discussing the matter with others.