Why Mario Batali Was Found Not Guilty Of Sexual Misconduct

Celebrity chef Mario Batali has been cleared of all charges of indecent assault and battery, in a verdict that took less than two days for Boston Municipal Court Judge James Stanton to reach, per NBC News. Before announcing the verdict, Judge Stanton said: "This case is about credibility and it's the court's job to assess the credibility of the witnesses," adding he felt there was insufficient evidence to reach a guilty verdict. Forbes reports that Stanton also stated Batali "[paid] a high cost ... in terms of diminished reputation and financial loss." 

The Associated Press explains questions about the accuser's credibility were raised by Batali's attorney Antony Fuller, who had revealed the chef's accuser tried to skip jury duty by claiming she was clairvoyant. Fuller also questioned her motives for accusing Batali of misconduct, saying she was after money since she filed a separate lawsuit against the chef asking for $50,000 in damages.

The trial saw the accuser explain to the court that she had been shocked and embarrassed when Batali groped and kissed her while taking selfies in an incident that dates back to 2017. According to NBC News, while the judge said the images questioned the credibility of the woman's story, the 32-year-old said she felt "confused and powerless" when Batali touched her without her consent, with her lawyer stating she was attempting to "de-escalate" the situation by continuing to smile. 

Batali was first accused of sexual misconduct in 2017

The speed at which a verdict was reached was almost anti-climactic, given the length of time it took to bring Batali to trial. Accusations of sexual misconduct were leveled against the celebrity chef by at least four women in 2017, according to Eater, but referred to incidents as far back as around 2007.

After the accusations went public, Batali went on leave from the business he ran with Joe Bastianich, B&B Hospitality, and in 2019 stepped away from his television roles at Food Network and on ABC's "The Chew" (via Forbes). He released an email apology, admitting that the accusations had "match up" with the ways he had acted at the time, and stating "I have made many mistakes ... My behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility," per the Associated Press. Less than four years later in 2021, Batali and his business partners agreed to a $600,000 payout to resolve allegations that the chef had sexually harassed their employees.

According to Forbes, Batali waived his right to a jury and did not take the stand to testify during his two-day trial.