BOSTON ( Associated Press) — Celebrity chef Mario Batali has waived his right to a jury trial and is choosing to let a judge decide his fate in his sexual misconduct trial in Boston.
Batali confirmed Boston Municipal Court Judge James Stanton’s decision as the trial began on Monday morning.
Batali pleaded not guilty in 2019 to a charge of indecent assault and battery, stemming from allegations that he forcibly kissed and held her in 2017 after taking a picture with a woman at a Boston restaurant. The woman says that Batali saw her taking her picture and invited her. together, then touched and kissed her repeatedly without her consent.
If convicted, Batali could face up to two-and-a-half years in prison and may have to register as a sex offender. He is expected to remain in court throughout the proceedings, which should last around two days.
Batali’s lawyers did not comment ahead of the start of the hearing in Boston Municipal Court on Monday. Chef’s lawyers had earlier said that the allegation was baseless.
His accuser has also filed a lawsuit against Batali seeking unspecified damages for “serious emotional distress” that is still pending in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston. His lawyer said he and his client would reserve comments until the criminal trial is over.
Batali is among several high-profile men who have faced public protests in recent years during the #MeToo social movement against sexual abuse and harassment.
The 61-year-old was once a part of the Food Network on shows like “Molto Mario” and “Iron Chef America,” but his high-flying career was marred by allegations of sexual misconduct.
He quit the ABC cooking show “The Chew” in 2017 after four women accused him of inappropriate touching, withdrawing from day-to-day operations at his restaurant empire.
Batali has offered an apology, admitting the allegations “match” with the way he acted.
“I have made many mistakes and I am very sorry that I have 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 is no excuse. I take full responsibility.”
Last year, Batali, his business partners, and his New York City restaurant company agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a four-year investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office alleging that Batali, restaurant managers and other workers had sexually assaulted the employees.
In Boston, they opened a branch of the popular Italian food market Eataly in the city’s Prudential Center in 2016 as well as a Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca in the city’s Port District in 2015.
Batali has since been bought out of its stake in Itali, which has dozens of locations around the world, including Boston. Babbo restaurant has closed in the city.