A Judge Just Cleared Mario Batali of Sexual Misconduct Charges After a Truly Bizarre Trial

“It’s an understatement to say that Mr. Batali did not cover himself in glory on the night in question," the judge said.

A Judge Just Cleared Mario Batali of Sexual Misconduct Charges After a Truly Bizarre Trial
Photo:Stuart Cahill (AP)

Yesterday, besmirched celebrity chef Mario Batali was found not guilty of one instance of sexual misconduct by a Boston judge. Batali, who traded his infamous orange Crocs for black ones for the two-day trial, appeared downright cheery following the verdict. Hey, who could blame him? The “Red Menace” faced up to two and half years in prison and would’ve been forced to register as a sex offender for allegedly groping a woman in a Boston bar in 2017.

“It’s an understatement to say that Mr. Batali did not cover himself in glory on the night in question. His conduct and his appearance and demeanor were not befitting on a public person of his stature at that time,” Judge James Stanton said before he announced the ruling. Ultimately though, Stanton asserted that Batali’s accuser, a 32-year-old Boston-native, had “significant credibility issues.”

The woman’s accusations were first made public in 2018 via an Eater investigation, wherein she alleged Batali groped her at Towne Stove and Spirits, a bar next door to Eataly, where the chef once held minority stake. She claimed Batali invited her over to his table to take a selfie after he spotted her sneaking a photograph of him. She noted that he seemed intoxicated and that, as they posed for selfies, Batali “rubbed her breasts, grabbed her backside, put his hands between her legs, and kept squeezing her face into his as he kissed her.”

“I was just in total disbelief when he touched me like that; I couldn’t believe it when it was happening. In the moment it was just so crazy, it was humiliating. The more I thought about it later, the angrier I got,” she told Eater.

During the short trial, Batali’s accuser also told the court that he invited her back to his hotel that night but that she didn’t go. The defense alleged, however, she has a history of lying as evidenced by a forged lease and an absurd excuse (clairvoyance) she gave to the Massachusetts court to avoid jury duty. It certainly didn’t help that damning text messages from 2018 between the accuser and her friend were also shown in court, with the friend instructing her to “just play up the story” when she spoke to the press.

“Omg of course queen,” she replied.

Naturally, some cursed corners of the internet had thoughts about the ruling, with some writing that accusers who “lie” about sexual harassment and assault deserve to be charged or sued for defamation and that Batali’s accuser “seemed loony” and “out for a payday.”

While Batali was ultimately cleared of this particular charge, the number of other accusations against the chef spanning decades are certainly worth revisiting. Three other women were cited in that Eater investigation, alleging Batali was guilty of inappropriate touching—from bra-snapping to groping to the use of sexual innuendo and language while on the job. A four-year investigation conducted by the New York attorney general’s office also revealed a culture of harassment fostered by Batali and included at least 20 women and men claiming to have been sexually assaulted while working at his former Manhattan restaurants, Babbo, Lupa and Del Posto. By 2021, Batali, and former business partner Joe Bastianich, and their company formerly known as B & B Hospitality Group were forced to pay a settlement of $600,000 to the accusers.

Even more disturbingly, following a separate investigation of the now-shuttered NYC gastropub, the Spotted Pig, three different women accused Batali of rape. Batali reportedly frequented the restaurant’s invitation-only room on the third floor, coined “the rape room.” Ultimately, those investigations were closed due to the state’s statute of limitations and a lack of evidence.

Even still, such allegations were enough to cost Batali of both his hosting gig on ABC’s The Chew and his stake in all of his restaurants. In 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported that he was no longer a co-owner or an investor in any of the 16 restaurants he previously held stake in, as his business partner bought him out and banned him from entering any of the establishments.

Though he hasn’t spoken much since, Batali owned up to some of his behavior via his newsletter in 2017, writing: “I have made many mistakes and I am so sorry that I have disappointed my friends, my family, my fans, and my team. My behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility.” He notoriously concluded the note with a recipe for cinnamon rolls: “ps. In case you’re searching for a holiday-inspired breakfast, these Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls are a fan favorite.”

Eater suggested Batali might make a comeback in 2019, but thankfully, unlike Louis C.K. (the “Other Red Menace”), Batali had the good sense to remain in the “cancelled” closet and work on his recipe for how to make a triumphant return awhile longer.

Here’s hoping he—and his crocs—stay put.

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