Celebrity chef and Food Network personality Mario Batali was found not guilty of indecent assault and battery by a judge on Tuesday after waiving his right to a jury trial.
Batali pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery in 2019 after a 2017 incident that with a customer who accused him of kissing and groping her while they were taking a selfie at a Boston restaurant. If convicted, Batali would have faced up to two and a half years in jail and would have had to register as a sex offender.
The 32-year-old software company worker who accused Batali of assault and battery also filed a pending lawsuit in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston.
“It was all happening so quickly and it was happening essentially the whole time,” the woman testified, according to the AP. “Just a lot of touching.”
The trial began with Batali waiving his right to a jury trial, instead leaving his fate in the judge’s hands. Batali’s lawyer argued that the woman wasn’t credible because she once claimed to be clairvoyant to get out of jury duty.
“She’s not being truthful,” Batali’s lawyer said, according to the AP. “This is being fabricated for money and for fun.”
The judge, Boston Municipal Court Judge James Stanton, agreed with Batali’s attorney that the accuser had credibility issues and ultimately sided with the celebrity chef.
Batali, once a fixture on Food Network and network TV shows like Iron Chef America and The Chew, was removed from the shows after this accuser and four others began to come forward with their stories of assault.
In March 2019, Batali was bought out from B&B Hospitality Group and its 16 restaurants, including Babbo and Del Posto. Italian food marketplace Eataly — which Batali helped build in Boston — bought out his stake in August of that year. Both began the process in 2018. Batali is now divested from all of his former restaurants and hospitality properties.