On Tuesday, a judge found celebrity chef Mario Batali not guilty on charges of sexual misconduct but still reprimanded him for the 2017 incident at a Boston restaurant that led to charges.
Batali was acquitted of alleged indecent assault and battery, according to a ruling by Boston Municipal Court Judge James Stanton.
The judge said there were “credibility” issues with the complaining witness that raised reasonable doubt.
Batali was accused of forcibly kissing and groping a woman at a Boston restaurant in 2017, a charge to which he pleaded not guilty in 2019.
The accuser took the stand Monday and testified that Batali groped her while taking selfies with him. The 32-year-old Boston-area software company worker said she felt powerless to do anything to stop the celebrity chef, NBC Boston reported.
“It was all happening so fast and it was happening essentially all the time,” the woman testified Monday. “Just a lot of contact.”
She testified that she felt embarrassed about the 2017 incident.
“This happened to me and this is my life,” the woman said when asked by prosecutors why she decided to speak out as well. “I want to be able to take control of what happened, come forward, say my part, and hold everyone accountable for their actions and behaviors.”
Despite Tuesday’s acquittal, Judge Staton still had harsh words for the defendant.
“It is an understatement to say that Mr. Batali did not cover himself in glory on the night in question, his conduct, his appearance and his behavior were not worthy of a public person of his stature at the time,” Stanton said.
Had Batali been convicted of indecent assault and battery, he could have faced up to 2 1/2 years behind bars and having to register as a sex offender.
Batali left the courthouse Tuesday without speaking to reporters.
The celebrity chef apologized in 2017, acknowledging that the accusations “match” 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.”
Suffolk County Prosecutor Kevin Hayden said Tuesday that he has no regrets about pressing a case that did not result in a conviction.
“While we are disappointed in the judge’s verdict, my office will not relinquish our support for the victim in this case,” Hayden said in a statement.
“I am grateful that the victim in this case made the decision to come forward, and to every sexual assault survivor who makes that difficult decision.”
An attorney for the accuser did not immediately respond to a request for comment.