Chef Mario Batali charged in Boston for alleged sexual assault

New York (AFP) –


US celebrity chef Mario Batali, who has been accused of sexual assault by several women, faces charges for allegedly groping a woman in 2017 in Boston, prosecutors and the accuser's lawyer said Thursday.

The Seattle-born chef, 58, has faced a series of allegations since December 2017 but this was the first time he has been criminally charged.

Batali will be arraigned on Friday in Boston Municipal Court for indecent assault and battery, the prosecutor's office said.

The alleged assault dates to April 2017. The accuser reportedly met the chef while they were dining separately at the same restaurant, the Towne Stove and Spirits, not far from Batali's restaurant Eataly.

Seeing that the young woman was trying to take a picture of him, Batali asked her to join him for a selfie. Once she was beside him, the chef allegedly kissed and groped her.

The name of Batali's accuser does not appear in the Suffolk County indictment dated April 4, according to the Boston Globe.

But the charges include allegations in a civil case against Batali filed last August by a Massachusetts woman named Natali Tene, 28, who was claiming damages for an unspecified amount.

Tene's lawyer, Eric Baum, confirmed she is the accuser.

"Natali is grateful that the Suffolk County District Attorney's office in Boston has chosen to go forward in prosecuting Mario Batali," he said.

"Mario Batali abused his celebrity status... while taking the photograph, Mario Batali groped her breasts, buttocks and genitals and kissed her repeatedly without consent," Baum said in a statement.

"He must be held accountable criminally and civilly for his despicable acts."

Batali's lawyer Anthony Fuller said 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," he told CNN.

The first charges Batali faced were published by the specialized site Eater in December 2017, amid the #MeToo movement.

More accusations followed against the once-prestigious chef, known for his red ponytail and orange Croc shoes.

Those allegations led him to apologize publicly for making "many mistakes," to take a sidelined role at his businesses and leave "The Chew" television program.