Celebrity chef Mario Batali pleads not guilty to groping woman at Boston restaurant

By Nate Raymond

BOSTON, May 24 (Reuters) - Celebrity chef and former television star Mario Batali appeared in a Boston courtroom on Friday, where a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf to a criminal charge that he forcibly groped and kissed a woman at a restaurant in 2017.

Wearing a baseball cap and blazer, Batali, 58, ignored journalists' questions on his way into and out of Boston Municipal Court, where he was arraigned after being charged with indecent assault and battery.

It is the first criminal case against Batali since the 2017 emergence of the #MeToo movement, which has exposed widespread patterns of sexual harassment or abuse of women in multiple spheres of American life and ended the careers of dozens of powerful men in media, politics, entertainment and business.

The woman told police that in March 2017, Batali groped one of her breasts and her buttocks and groin and kissed her face after posing with her for a photograph in a Boston restaurant, according to a criminal complaint.

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BOSTON, MA - MAY 24: Mario Batali, 58, on his way to be arraigned on a charge of indecent assault and battery in Boston Municipal Court in Boston on May 24, 2019, connection with a 2017 incident in a Back Bay restaurant. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 24: Mario Batali, 58, on his way to be arraigned on a charge of indecent assault and battery in Boston Municipal Court in Boston on May 24, 2019, connection with a 2017 incident in a Back Bay restaurant. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
US celebrity chef Mario Batali (C,) waits for an elevator as he arrives at Boston Municipal Court on May 24, 2019, in Boston, Massachusetts. - Batali will be arraigned for indecent assault and battery, the prosecutor's office said. The alleged assault dates to April 2017 (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP) / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images)
US celebrity chef Mario Batali (C) exits courtroom 17 at Boston Municipal Court on May 24, 2019, in Boston, Massachusetts. - Batali was arraigned on charges of indecent assault and battery, the prosecutor's office said. The alleged assault dates to April 2017. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images)
US celebrity chef Mario Batali exits courtroom 17 at Boston Municipal Court on May 24, 2019, in Boston, Massachusetts. - Batali was arraigned on charges of indecent assault and battery, the prosecutor's office said. The alleged assault dates to April 2017. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images)
US celebrity chef Mario Batali (C, cap) boards an elevator with reporters as he arrives at Boston Municipal Court on May 24, 2019, in Boston, Massachusetts. - Batali was arraigned on charges of indecent assault and battery, the prosecutor's office said. The alleged assault dates to April 2017. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Joseph Prezioso has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [he arrives at Boston Municipal Court] instead of [he leaves courtroom 17]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images)
US celebrity chef Mario Batali leaves Boston Municipal Court on May 24, 2019, in Boston, Massachusetts. - Batali was arraigned on charges of indecent assault and battery, the prosecutor's office said. The alleged assault dates to April 2017. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 24: Celebrity chef Mario Batali leaves Boston Municipal Court following an arraingment on a charge of indecent assault and battery in connection with a 2017 incident at a Back Bay restaurant on May 24, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 24: Celebrity chef Mario Batali leaves Boston Municipal Court following an arraingment on a charge of indecent assault and battery in connection with a 2017 incident at a Back Bay restaurant on May 24, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 24: Celebrity chef Mario Batali arrives at Boston Municipal Court for an arraingment on a charge of indecent assault and battery in connection with a 2017 incident at a Back Bay restaurant on May 24, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
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"The victim stated she was uncomfortable and that it was shocking to her that this was happening," the complaint said.

The lawsuit the woman filed against Batali in August is pending.

Batali was released on his own recognizance on the condition that he avoid contact with the alleged victim. At the request of Batali's lawyer, a judge said that requirement would be waived should he need to testify in her lawsuit.

Batali, who this year sold his stakes in his U.S. restaurants after the accusations against him emerged, denies wrongdoing and "intends to fight the allegations vigorously," Anthony Fuller, his lawyer, said in a statement.

If convicted, Batali faces up to 2-1/2 years in jail.

Batali's charisma and culinary flair turned him into a restaurant executive, television star, author and one of the world's most recognizable chefs. He premiered on the Food Network in 1997 on the show "Molto Mario" and in 2011 helped launch the daytime cooking show "The Chew" on ABC.

In December 2017, ABC fired Batali after four unnamed women accused him of sexual misconduct that they said spanned at least two decades. The Food Network had also canceled plans to relaunch "Molto Mario."

The New York Police Department started an investigation after CBS "60 Minutes" reported in May 2018 that Batali drugged and sexually assaulted an employee in 2005. Batali denied the report and police later closed the investigation. (Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

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Mario Batali out and about
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Mario Batali out and about
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25: Mario Batali attends Passion Play: How Jessica Alba and Mario Batali Created Multichannel Marvels during the Fast Company Innovation Festival at 92nd Street Y on October 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 15: Chef Mario Batali attends 6th Annual Mario Batali Foundation Honors dinner at Del Posto on October 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 15: Chef Mario Batali attends 6th Annual Mario Batali Foundation Honors dinner at Del Posto on October 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 14: Chef Mario Batali and television Ayesha Curry during Family Ice Cream Fun-dae hosted by Mario Batali and Ayesha Curry at Private Park at Hudson on October 14, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Food and music writer Brooke Mazurek, musician Jarobi White, chef Mario Batali, and moderator Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker, deputy editor of Billboard speak on the Chefs are Rock Stars and Rock Stars are Chefs panel at Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits of New York Trade Tasting presented by Beverage Media Group, during the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by Coca-Cola at Pier 94 on October 13, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
THE CHEW - The hosts of 'The Chew' broadcast from Disney's Epcot Center in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Yvette Nicole Brown is the guest on Friday, October 13th. 'The Chew' airs MONDAY - FRIDAY (1-2pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Disney/Todd Anderson) MARIO BATALI, CLINTON KELLY
THE CHEW - The hosts of 'The Chew' broadcast from Disney's Epcot Center in Lake Buena Vista, Florida the week of October 9, 2017. 'The Chew' airs MONDAY - FRIDAY (1-2pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Disney/Todd Anderson) MICHAEL SYMON, CARLA HALL, ISLA FISHER, CLINTON KELLY, MARIO BATALI
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0697 -- Pictured: (l-r) Chef Mario Batali during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on June 21, 2017 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 21: Chef Mario Batali and Susi Cahn are seen in NoHo on June 21, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by TheStewartofNY/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 20: Chef Mario Batali arrives at EAT (RED) Food & Film Fest! at Bryant Park on June 20, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for (Red))
THE CHEW - Larry the Cable Guy is the guest, Monday, June 19, 2017 on ABC's 'The Chew.' 'The Chew' airs MONDAY - FRIDAY (1-2pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images) MARIO BATALI
THE CHEW - Ali Wentworth is a guest on 'The Chew,' Tuesday, June 6, 2017. 'The Chew' airs MONDAY - FRIDAY (1-2pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty Images) MARIO BATALI, ALI WENTWORTH
THE CHEW - Tituss Burgess is the guest Monday, May 22, 2017 on ABC's 'The Chew.' 'The Chew' airs MONDAY - FRIDAY (1-2pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Jeff Neira/ABC via Getty Images) MARIO BATALI, DAPHNE OZ
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 22: Mario Batali and Mariska Hargitay attend The Joyful Revolution Gala In New York City hosted by Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation on May 22, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Joyful Heart Foundation)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 11: Mario Batali attends the WITNESS 25th Anniversary Gala at The Edison Ballroom on May 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
THE CHEW - Jessica Seinfeld and Camilla Alves are the guests today, Tuesday, April 25, 2017 on ABC's 'The Chew.' 'The Chew' airs MONDAY - FRIDAY (1-2pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Jeff Neira/ABC via Getty Images) CARLA HALL, MARIO BATALI
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Mario Batali, Susi Cahn and Michael Symon attend 2017 Can-Do Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on April 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
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