Former Food Network star Mario Batali was found not guilty of indecent assault and battery charges, stemming from an incident in Boston roughly five years ago.
The verdict was decided by Boston Municipal Court Judge James Stanton after Batali waived his right to a jury.
Batali was accused of kissing and groping a woman while taking a picture at a bar, the AP reported. During testimony, the alleged victim said the celebrity chef was drunk, grabbed her private areas, stuck his tongue in her ear, and invited her to his room. In response, Batali’s lawyer, Anthony Fuller, labeled the woman as an untrustworthy witness and claimed she was fabricating the story for financial gain.
The judge agreed with Fuller’s contention, stating photos from that night appear to show a consensual encounter. If convicted, Batali could’ve faced up to 2.5 years in jail and been required to register as a sex offender.
The decision comes nearly one year after Batali and Joseph Bastianich of Batali & Bastianich Hospitality were required to pay $600,000 to at least 20 former employees after allowing a hostile work environment and a “sexualized culture of misconduct and harassment” at their restaurants, which include Babbo, Lupa, and the permanently shuttered Del Posto. The company was also instructed to revise training materials and submit biannual reports to certify compliance.
In 2017, multiple women accused Batali of inappropriate touching, including groping their breasts and buttocks. When these allegations came to light, the New York State Office of the Attorney General opened an investigation and found that Batali and Bastianich engaged in unlawful sex discrimination and retaliation, in violation of state and city human rights laws. The attorney general’s office learned that between 2016 and 2019, multiple employees witnessed or personally experienced unwanted sexual advances and favoritism toward male employees.
At the time, Batali took a leave of absence from the company and his TV show The Chew. A couple of years later, the Bastianich family bought out all of Batali’s shares in the company.