Celebrity chef Mario Batali to appear in court on indecent assault charge

Celebrity chef Mario Batali is due in a Boston court Friday to be arraigned on an indecent assault charge that stems from an alleged 2017 incident with a woman in a Back Bay restaurant.

It’s the first felony criminal charge Batali has faced since he’s been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct.

According to court records, on March 31, 2017, Batali was seated at Towne Stove and Spirits when a woman noticed him and tried to surreptitiously take his picture. Batali saw her and said “come here right now,” according to court documents.

The woman went over to apologize, but Batali told her it was OK and offered to take a selfie, court documents alleged. While seated on a bar stool, Batali put his arm around the woman, who was standing, grabbed her breast, pulled her closer, put his hand between her legs and touched her inappropriately, documents said.

He then allegedly held her face and kissed her cheek and mouth. The woman said based on his smell and half-closed eyes that she believed Batali was drunk, according to court records.

A defense attorney representing Batali denied the charges.

“Mr. Batali denies the allegations in both this criminal complaint and the civil complaint filed last August,” said defense attorney Anthony Fuller. “The charges, brought by the same individual without any new basis, are without merit. He intends to fight the allegations vigorously and we expect the outcome to fully vindicate Mr. Batali.”

The same woman filed a lawsuit against Batali last year, alleging she asked the chef for a photo and he tried to kiss her, put his hands between her legs and groped her breasts, according to the Boston Globe.

Attorneys for the women praised the district attorney’s office in Boston for pursuing the criminal case.

“Natali is grateful that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office in Boston has chosen to go forward in prosecuting Mario Batali on criminal charges of sexually assaulting her,” Eric Baum and Matthew Fogelman said in a joint statement. “The criminal charges brought against him are independent of the ongoing civil lawsuit. Mr. Batali must be held accountable criminally and civilly for his despicable acts.”

The New York Police Department investigated two other alleged sexual assaults by the chef, but ultimately the district attorney did not press charges.

Batali has previously acknowledged “deeply inappropriate” behavior but has said that he “vehemently denies any allegations of sexual assault.”

Former business partner Joe Bastianich announced Batali was “fully divested” of the pair’s restaurant empire in March.

“We wanted to let you all know that Mario is now fully divested from our businesses,” Bastianich and sister Tanya Bastianich Manuali said in a letter to employees. “This week, we acquired all of his interests in our restaurants.”

In December 2017, Batali was asked to leave ABC’s “The Chew” and he offered to step away from the day-to-day operations of his restaurant group.

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