Accuser testifies in sexual misconduct trial against Mario Batali

Mario Batali’s sexual misconduct trial began Monday in a Boston court, with his accuser recounting how she was “shocked, shocked and alarmed” when the celebrity chef aggressively kissed and groped her while taking selfies at a restaurant in 2017.

The 32-year-old Boston-area software company worker said she felt confused and powerless to do anything to stop Batali when he grabbed her “in a way I’ve never been touched before.”

“It was all happening so fast and it was happening essentially all the time,” the woman testified in Boston Municipal Court. “Just a lot of contact.”

She said she was embarrassed until she saw other women step forward to share similar encounters with Batali.

“This happened to me and this is my life,” the woman said. “I want to be able to take control of what happened, come forward, say my part and hold everyone accountable for their actions.”

Part 1: Celebrity chef Mario Batali goes to trial in groping case for
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But Batali’s attorney, Anthony Fuller, tried to discredit her, arguing that the assault never happened.

He said the accuser has a financial incentive to lie as she seeks more than $50,000 in damages from Batali in a separate civil lawsuit pending in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston.

“She’s not telling the truth,” Fuller said. “This is being manufactured for money and for fun.”

During cross-examination, he presented financial statements showing the woman ate at Eataly, the Italian market once owned by Batali, weeks after the encounter and continued to frequent the Boston bar where the alleged assault took place.

“Are you going to the restaurant of the guy you claim brutally assaulted you?” he said. “That makes no sense”.

The woman said she had no recollection of going to Eataly and maintained that she does not speak for financial gain. She also pressed Fuller hard for questioning why none of the many photos taken with Batali that night showed the alleged assault.

The woman said all the photos were taken relatively closely and did not show how Batali, who said he was visibly drunk, was grabbing her private parts, touching her face and even sticking his tongue in her ear. She said that he also invited her to her hotel room after her, which she refused.

“I’ve never been touched like this before,” the woman said. “Squeezing my vagina to get closer to him, like that’s a normal way to grab someone.”

But Fuller argued that the accuser is not a credible witness. She focused on the woman who recently admitted to charges of violating a judge’s instructions while she was on the jury in an unrelated criminal trial in 2018.

The woman, who had claimed she was clairvoyant in a jury selection questionnaire, argued in court Monday that she can predict important events before they happen “to a certain extent.”

Monday’s trial began after Batali, in a surprise move, waived his right to a jury trial and opted to have a judge decide his fate.

Batali, who pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery in 2019, you could face up to 2 1/2 years in jail and will be required to register as a sex offender if convicted.

Mario Batali pleads not guilty to indecent assault and battery charges in Boston court
Mario Batali, 58, leaves court after being arraigned on a charge of indecent assault and battery at Boston Municipal Court in Boston on May 24, 2019.

David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Batali is among a number of high-profile men who have faced public prosecution during the #MeToo social movement against sexual abuse and harassment in recent years.

The 61-year-old was once a Food Network fixture on shows like “Molto Mario” and “Iron Chef America.” But the high-flying career of the ponytailed, orange crocodile personality came crashing down amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Four women accused him of inappropriate touching in 2017, after which he resigned from day-to-day operations at his restaurant empire and left ABC’s cooking show “The Chew,” which has since been discontinued.

Batali has offered an apology, acknowledging that the accusations “concur” with the ways in which he has acted.

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’m so sorry I let my friends, my family, my fans and my team down,” he said in an email newsletter at the time. “My behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility.”

Last year, Batali, his business partner, and his New York City restaurant company agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a four-year investigation by the New York attorney general’s office into allegations that Batali, restaurant managers and other workers sexually harassed employees.

In Boston, he opened the Eataly location downtown and the Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca in the city’s Seaport District. Batali has since been bought out of its stake in Eataly and the Babbo restaurant has closed.

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