Breaking News

Mario Batali Found Not Guilty in Sexual Assault Trial

Only two witnesses testified during the trial, both for the prosecution. Ms. Tene, 32, who works in the software industry, spent most of the first day on the stand, describing her encounter with Mr. Batali late one evening at Towne Stove and Spirits, a bar in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston that has since closed.

Mr. Batali saw her surreptitiously shoot a photo of him from a few seats away at the bar, then invited her to take some pictures with him, she said. As the photo session began, she testified, so did the forced kissing and groping.

The only other witness called was a friend of Ms. Tene’s, Rachel Buckley, 37. She said Ms. Tene sent her a picture of Mr. Batali the night of their encounter, along with texts that described him as appearing extremely drunk but didn’t mention his grabbing her. Details of the groping and kisses from Mr. Batali came up in subsequent conversations, Ms. Buckley testified.

Much of the evidence in the trial came from two years’ worth of Ms. Tene’s text messages, which sometimes showed her being flippant about selling the photos or getting money from Mr. Batali. They revealed incidents in which she lied to get out of a gym membership and, in an effort to avoid jury duty, told another court that she was clairvoyant. Once she was seated on that jury, she violated court rules by searching the defendant’s background and texting a friend that she thought he was guilty.

The judge noted those incidents and her disregard for the courts, in addition to photos from the night at the bar that showed her smiling after her first encounter with Mr. Batali. Three minutes later, she took another round of selfies with the chef.

“Her reaction or lack thereof to the alleged assault is telling,” the judge said.

Just before he ruled, Judge Stanton also admonished Mr. Batali. “His conduct and his appearance and his demeanor were not befitting of a public person of his stature at that time,” he said. “It is a lesson for all of those people in public or celebrity positions.”