— BOSTON (AP) On Tuesday, Mario Batali was declared not guilty of indecent assault and battery after a quick trial in which the gourmet chef sacrificed his right to a jury trial in a criminal case stemming from the worldwide #MeToo movement over s*xual abuse and harassment.
The 2017 lawsuit centred on charges that the 61-year-old former Food Network celebrity aggressively kissed and grabbed a Boston woman while she was taking a picture at a pub. The former Food Network personality and his attorneys left the courthouse without speaking.
In rendering the decision, Boston Municipal Court Judge James Stanton concurred with Batali’s attorneys that the complainant lacked credibility and that photographs indicated that the interaction was cordial.
He stated, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
However, the court also reprimanded Batali, stating that the former star of television programmes like as “Molto Mario” and “Iron Chef America” had already paid “a hefty price” in terms of his lost reputation and financial losses.
“It is an understatement to say that Mr. Batali didn’t even cover himself in glory on the night in issue,” Stanton said after prosecutors argued that he was visibly intoxicated in the photographs. His behaviour, appearance, and temperament were unbecoming of a public figure of his stature at the time. Kevin Hayden, district attorney for Suffolk County, expressed disappointment with the verdict but gratitude that Batali’s accuser had come forward.
“It can be very challenging for a victim to identify a s*xual assault,” he added in a statement. When the perpetrator of such atrocious conduct holds a position of power or is a public figure, the decision to disclose an assault can become more difficult and scary.
It was an intelligent bet that Stanton, a former Republican nominee for state representative who was nominated to the court by Republican Governor Charlie Baker, would rule more favourably than a Boston jury in Batali’s indecent assault and battery case in 2019.
When a defendant is likely to come out as unlikable to jurors, a non-jury trial, or bench trial, is frequently sought.
Such was the case with Michelle Carter, the Massachusetts teen infamously charged with manslaughter for inciting her suicidal boyfriend to commit suicide via text texts and the subject of “The Girl from Plainville,” a 2022 Hulu series starring Elle Fanning.
However, Carter’s plan failed, and she was tried and convicted to even more than a year in prison.
If convicted, Batali would have faced up to 2 1/2 years in prison and been compelled to register as a sexual offender.
His accuser, who also left the courthouse without addressing to media, had claimed that at the time she felt confused and helpless to stop Batali.
In his closing arguments, however, Batali’s attorney Antony Fuller painted the 32-year-old Boston-area resident as a “confessed liar” who is driven by money since she filed a lawsuit against Batali seeking more than $50,000 in damages.
“In her world, the concept of reality is malleable,” he added, referring to the woman’s recent admission of seeking to evade jury duty by claiming to be clairvoyant, which was the focal point of the two-day trial.
In her closing address, prosecutor Nina Bonelli argued that Batali’s attorneys were attempting to “demonise” the victim, despite the fact that their client was on trial for his conduct.
She said that the woman attempted to “de-escalate” the unwelcome contact by “smiling it off” in the photographs.
“The kissing and touching. She never requested it. “She never gave her consent,” she stated. She merely desired a selfie.
Batali was undoubtedly the most notable chef and restaurateur to be accused of sexual misconduct during the height of the #MeToo movement, which shook the food and beverage industry in particular.
In 2017, after four women accused him of inappropriate touching, he stepped away from day-to-day operations at his restaurant empire and quit the ABC food show “The Chew,” which has since been cancelled.
Batali also apologised, recognising that the claims “fit” his behaviour.
At the time, he stated in his email newsletter, “I have made many errors.” “My actions were improper, and there are no justifications. I accept all responsibility.”
Batali, his business associate, and their New York City restaurants company paid $600,000 to settle a four-year inquiry by the New York attorney general’s office into charges that Batali and other staff s*xually harassed employees.
In Boston’s Seaport District, he had opened a branch of the famed Italian food market Eataly and a Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca. His interest in Eataly has subsequently been purchased, and the Boston Babbo restaurant is shuttered.
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