US celebrity chef Batali acquitted of sexual assault

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US celebrity chef Mario Batali has been found not guilty of groping a woman in Boston in 2017 (AFP/Joseph Prezioso) (Joseph Prezioso)

American celebrity chef Mario Batali was on Tuesday found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in a Boston bar five years ago.

A judge acquitted Batali of indecent assault and battery charges in Boston Municipal Court after the 61-year-old chef waived his right to a jury trial.

Batali, known for his red ponytail and orange Croc shoes, had been accused of forcibly kissing and grabbing Natali Tene in April 2017.

Judge James Stanton said it was "an understatement to say that Mr Batali did not cover himself in glory on the night in question."

But he added that the accuser had "significant credibility issues."

The verdict came after a day and a half of testimony, mostly from 32-year-old Tene. Batali did not take the stand and his defense team called no witnesses.

Kevin Hayden, the district attorney of Suffolk county in Massachusetts, who prosecuted the case, said in a statement he was "disappointed" with the verdict.

Batali was once of several prominent chefs and restaurant owners who were accused of sexual misconduct following the #MeToo movement.

Last year, he and restauranteur Joseph Bastianich agreed to pay $600,000 in a settlement to 20 former employees over sexual harassment allegations at their various restaurants.

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