Batali's Sex Misconduct Trial Starts, With One Decision Made

Celebrity chef opts for judge to decide his fate, not a jury
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 9, 2022 10:55 AM CDT
Mario Batali Opts for Judge to Decide His Fate, Not Jury
Chef Mario Batali departs municipal court in Boston on May 24, 2019, after pleading not guilty to an allegation that he forcibly kissed and groped a woman at a Boston restaurant in 2017.   (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds, File)

Celebrity chef Mario Batali has waived his right to a jury trial and is opting to have a judge decide his fate in his sexual misconduct trial in Boston. Batali confirmed the decision to Boston Municipal Court Justice James Stanton as the trial opened Monday morning, per the AP. In her opening statement, prosecutor Nina Bonelli described how Batali aggressively and nonconsensually kissed and groped a woman who tried to take a selfie with him at a downtown Boston restaurant in 2017. But Batali lawyer Anthony Fuller argued the assault never happened and that the accuser isn't a credible witness and has a financial incentive to lie. "She's not being truthful," he said. "This is being fabricated for money and for fun."

The accuser, who's expected to take the stand Monday, has filed a lawsuit against Batali, seeking unspecified damages for "severe emotional distress," that's still pending in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston. Fuller also said the accuser, in an effort to get out of jury duty, recently pleaded guilty to lying during jury selection in another Massachusetts criminal trial because she claimed she was clairvoyant. Batali, who pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery in 2019, could face up to 2 1/2 years in jail and be required to register as a sex offender if convicted. He's expected to be in court throughout the proceedings, which should last about two days, according to prosecutors.

The 61-year-old was once a Food Network fixture on shows like Molto Mario and Iron Chef America, but his high-flying career crumbled amid sexual misconduct allegations. Four women accused him of inappropriate touching in 2017, after which he stepped down from day-to-day operations at his restaurant empire and left the since-discontinued ABC cooking show The Chew. Batali offered an apology, acknowledging the allegations "match up" with ways he has acted. Last year, Batali, his business partner, and their New York City restaurant company agreed to pay $600,000 to resolve allegations that Batali, restaurant managers, and other workers sexually harassed employees.

(More Mario Batali stories.)

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