BOSTON ( Associated Press) – Mario Batali’s sexual misconduct trial began in a Boston court on Monday, with his accuser describing how she was “shocked, shocked and concerned” after the celebrity chef took a selfie at a restaurant in 2017. Kissed and groped her aggressively.
The 32-year-old employee of a Boston-area software company said she felt confused and powerless to do anything to stop Batali because he “held her in a way that I had never been touched before.”
“It was all happening so quickly and it was happening essentially the whole time,” the woman testified in Boston Municipal Court. “Just very touching.”
watch: What might it mean to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims?
She said she felt embarrassed until she saw other women proceeding to share similar encounters with Batali.
“It happened to me and it’s my life,” said the woman. “I want to be able to control what happened, come forward, speak my mind and everyone should be held accountable for their actions.”
But Batali’s lawyer, Anthony Fuller, tried to discredit him, arguing that the assault never happened.
She said the accuser has a financial incentive to lie because she is seeking more than $50,000 in damages from Batali in a separate civil suit pending in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston.
“That’s not coming true,” Fuller said. “It’s being coined for money and entertainment.”
During the cross-examination, she presented financial statements that showed the woman had, weeks after the encounter, ate at Itali, an Italian market owned by Batali, and continued to patronize the Boston bar where the alleged assault took place.
“You go to the restaurant of the man you claimed to have beaten you mercilessly?” They said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
The woman said that she does not remember going to Itali and added that she was not speaking for financial gain. He pushed Fuller to ask why none of the many photographs taken with Batali that night showed the alleged assault.
The woman said all the photos were taken from relatively close range and did not show that Batali, whom she said was drunk, was holding her private areas, touching her face and even touching her face. that his tongue was sticking in his ear. He said that he later invited her to his hotel room as well, which he declined.
“I’ve never been touched like this before,” said the woman. “Squeezing my vagina to pull me closer to you, like it’s a normal way to grab someone.”
But Fuller argued that the accuser was not a credible witness. He recently honed in on a woman admitting to charges of violating a judge’s directions while serving on a jury in an unrelated criminal trial in 2018.
The woman, who claimed in a jury selection questionnaire, told court Monday that she can “to some extent” predict major events before they happen.
Monday’s hearing began after Batali – in a surprise move – waived his right to a jury trial and instead opted for a judge to decide his fate.
Batali, who pleaded not guilty in 2019 to indecent assault and battery, could face up to 2 1/2 years in prison and may need to register as a sex offender if convicted.
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.
Read more: Inequality is being addressed, say leaders on #MeToo anniversary
The 61-year-old was once a part of the Food Network on shows like “Molto Mario” and “Iron Chef America.” But the ponytail-and-orange croc-clad personality’s high-flying career came to a halt amid 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, he opened the Downtown Eataly location and Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca in the city’s Port District. Since then Batali has been bought out of its stake in Itali and Babbo restaurant has closed.