Chef Maria Batali is on trial in Boston for sexual misconduct

Mario Batali, once considered the most famous celebrity chef in the United States, began a trial Monday in Boston on charges of lewd battery and assault related to what began as a 2017 selfie session at a Boston bar.

Several prominent chefs and caterers have been charged with sexual harassment and abuse since the #MeToo movement spread to the world of restaurants and hospitality in the fall of 2017, but Mr Batali is the only one facing criminal charges.

If convicted, he could face up to two and a half years in a Suffolk County Correctional Facility and be required to register as a sex offender.

The jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday, but in the morning Mr. Batali told Judge James Stanton that he would waive his right to a jury trial and leave the verdict to a judge instead, The Boston Globe reported. Testimony was ongoing until mid-morning.

Mr Batali’s wife, 61, accused of the attack is Natali Tene, 32, who also filed a lawsuit based on the same meeting with Mr. Batali at Towne Stove and Spirits, a bar in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood that has been closed since.

The charges in the civil and criminal cases are the same: Ms. Tene said she noticed Mr. Batali while taking a drink with a friend at a bar and took a photo of him. He called her and suggested a selfie. He then grabbed her breasts, buttocks and groin, forcibly kissed her mouth and cheeks and suggested they head to his nearby hotel, according to court documents.

Ms Tene’s lawyer, Matthew Fogelman, said Monday he would not comment on civil or criminal cases until the criminal matter is resolved. He also represents Alexandra Brown, who filed a similar lawsuit based on an incident with Mr. Batali during a selfie session in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood.

In earlier statements to The New York Times, Mr. Batali’s lawyer denied accounts in Ms. Tena’s civil and criminal lawsuits.

“The allegations, made by the same individual without any new basis, are unfounded,” attorney Anthony E. Fuller said in a statement when Mr Batali pleaded not guilty to the charges in Boston Municipal Court in 2019. The case’s progress has been halted in part due to the Covid pandemic.

Mr. Batali, once host of ABC’s daily talk show “The Chew,” is one of many chefs and caterers affected by accusations of sexual harassment and harassment in the restaurant industry that began to decline in the fall of 2017 in cities like San. Francisco, New York and New Orleans. Mr Batali’s behavior first came to light in December 2017 when four women told the Eater website that he had improperly touched them as part of a pattern of behavior they and others said had lasted for at least two decades.

Further reports of Mr Batali’s conduct were revealed in a Times article the following day; several women described incidents of sexual harassment and attacks on Spotted Pig, Mr. Batali’s favorite playground in Manhattan, and a number of other famous chefs, musicians and sports stars.

The New York City Police Department has investigated three reports of sexual assault against Mr. Batali, but a department officer in 2019 confirmed that he closed those investigations due to lack of evidence and statute of limitations.

Later that year, New York Attorney General Letitia James said companies built by Mr. Batali and former partner Joe Bastianich were revealing a sexualized culture so imbued with harassment and retaliation that it violated state and city human rights laws.

As part of the settlement, the two men and a company they once owned together paid $ 600,000 to split between at least 20 women and men who were sexually harassed while working at Babbo, Lupa or Del Posto restaurants in Manhattan, which until permanent closing in April 2021 was the crown jewel among men’s funds.

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