PHILIP MARCEL – Associated Press
Boston (AP) – Mario Batali was found not guilty of indecent assault and beatings Tuesday after a speedy trial in which the celebrity chef waived his right to have the jury decide his fate.
The 61-year-old former Food Network activist quickly walked out of the courtroom with his lawyers, without commenting on the case, which was accused of aggressively kissing and touching a woman from Boston while taking a selfie at a bar in 2017.
In passing sentence, Boston Municipal Court Judge James Stanton agreed with Batali’s lawyers that the prosecutor had problems with trust and that the photos showed that the meeting was amicable.
“Photos are worth a thousand words,” he said.
But the judge also made serious remarks about the former star of shows such as “Molto Mario” and “Iron Chef America”, which, according to prosecutors, was clearly drunk in the photos.
“The defendant was not covered in fame that night,” Stanton said. “His behavior, appearance and behavior did not correspond to a public figure of this level at the time.”
Suffolk County Attorney Kevin Hayden said he was disappointed with the verdict, but a grateful prosecutor Batali spoke.
“Victims can find it incredibly difficult to detect sexual violence,” he said in a statement. “If the person who committed such a heinous act is in a position of power or celebrity, the decision to report the attack can become even more difficult and frightening.”
Battles that did not plead guilty before the indecent assault and beating in 2019, he was threatened with up to 2 1/2 years in prison, and if convicted he would be required to register as a sex offender.
His prosecutor, who also left the courtroom without speaking to reporters, testified that at the time she felt confused and powerless to do anything to stop Batali.
But in his closing remarks, Battle lawyer Anthony Fuller portrayed the 32-year-old Boston resident as a “recognized liar” who is financially motivated because she sued demanding more than $ 50,000 in damages from Batali.
“In her world, truth is a flexible concept,” he said, referring to a woman’s recent confession in an attempt to avoid the jury service, arguing she was insightful, which was the focus of the two-day trial.
Prosecutor Nina Banelli denied in her closing statement that Batali’s lawyers tried to “demonize” the woman when it was their client who was being tried for his behavior.
She claimed that from the photos it was “absolutely indisputable” that Batali was drunk. What is not shown, she said, is what happened behind the scenes when he also seized the prosecutor’s private plots.
Banelli added that the woman tried to “destroy” unwanted touches by simply “smiling”.
“Kisses, touch. She never asked for it. She never agreed to it, ”she said. “She just wanted to take a selfie.”
Batali is among a number of prominent men who in recent years have faced public violence during the #MeToo movement against sexual violence and harassment.
After four women accused him of inappropriate touching in 2017, he gave up day-to-day operations in his restaurant empire and left the discontinued ABC cooking show “The Chew”.
Batali also apologized, acknowledging that the charges “coincide” with the way he acted.
“I made a lot of mistakes,” he said in an e-mail at the time. “My behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility. “
Last year, Batali, his business partner and their New York restaurant company agreed to pay $ 600,000 to complete a four-year investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office into allegations that Batali and other employees sexually harassed employees.
In Boston, he opened a branch of the popular Italian food market Eataly and Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca in the urban area of the seaport. But since then it has been redeemed from its stake in Eataly, and the Babbo restaurant in Boston has closed.
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