Mario Batali was acquitted of sexual misconduct charges of indecent assault and battery in a Boston court on Tuesday, May 10. The 61-year-old celebrity chef had been accused of groping a fan in a Beantown restaurant in 2017. His accuser Natali Tene, 32, alleged that he grabbed her while they were taking a selfie together, according to CNN.
After the verdict was announced, the Judge, James Stanton, admitted that Natali had “credibility issues” with her case and testimony, which she gave on Monday. He sided with Mario’s side in saying that “her motive was financial gain.” Despite the former Food Network star being found not guilty, the judge still said that his behavior was “not befitting of a public person of his stature.”
If Mario had been found guilty, he would’ve been required to register as a sex offender, and he could’ve served up to two and a half years in jail, according to The New York Times. The chef reportedly smiled as the verdict was read, and was clearly relieved with the acquittal. Mario’s lawyers’ closing argument pointed toward her using the claims for financial gain. “She lied for fun and she lied for money,” Tony Fuller said in his statement.
Natali was one of only two witnesses called to testify in the trial. Mario’s side didn’t call any witnesses to the stand. Natali alleged that she saw the chef at the bar Towne Stove and Spirits late at night, and took a picture of him, when he went over and took a selfie. She said that as they took the selfie, he violated her. “His right hand is all over my breasts, all over my rear end, all between my legs,” she said in her testimony, per CNN. “I’ve never been grabbed like that before … squeezing my vagina and pulling me closer to him. As if that’s a normal way to pull someone in.” Mario’s attorneys argued that she didn’t have evidence to support the claims.