Judge James Stanton noted that Batali’s behavior was “unbecoming of a public person of his stature” that night five years ago, but said the defendant had “significant credibility issues” supporting the defendant’s claim that her motive was financial gain.
Batali, who was wearing a tracksuit, smiled after the verdict was pronounced and thanked his lawyer. The accused hurried out of the courtroom as soon as the judge declared the accused not guilty.
The verdict came a day after Natalie Tenney stood before Batali’s criminal trial in Boston, where he testified that he touched her during an impromptu selfie session.
Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden said in a statement that the ruling was disappointing and that his office “will not waive our support for the victim in this case.”
“It can be very difficult for a victim to disclose sexual assault,” Hayden said. “When the person who has committed such a hateful act is in a position of power or fame, the decision to report an assault can become even more difficult and intimidating.”
Hayden said he was grateful to the defendant for her advances and “to every survivor of sexual assault.”
Tinny said she posed for pictures with Batali while, outside the frame, he tapped as she was standing near him.
“His right hand covers my entire breast, on my back end, and it’s all between my legs,” said Tine.
He denied these allegations and pleaded not guilty. Defense attorney Anthony Fuller told the court that “the photos and videos do not support her testimony.”
Stanton described Batali’s behavior as “a lesson to all these people in public office or celebrities” and said he had “paid a heavy price in terms of reputational degradation and financial loss”.
But the municipal court judge said the case was about credibility and called Tenny’s behavior as a sworn juror in another case “outrageous and … offensive to the rule of law.” He said testimony about Tene’s alleged scheme to evade a $200 gym membership with a “fake legal document” damaged her credibility.
“These were only two of the cases but they were significant in the minds of the court. They support the defendant’s claim that her motive was financial gain,” Stanton said.
Teni testifies that she was “nervoused, shocked, and terrified”
Tinny testified on Monday, when she met a friend on March 31, 2017, at Towne Stove and Spirits, a restaurant in Boston.
Tinny recognized Batali as she was sitting near her at the bar, she said. She testified that she tried to secretly take a picture of him.
Teni said her friend told her that Batali had caught her sneaking the photo. Tinny came forward and apologized to Batali, she said, and promised to delete the photo.
Teni then took about 10 selfies at about 12:37 a.m., she said, and their heads, faces, shoulders, everything that could fit into the frame was visible.
“His face pressed against my face as he pulled my body close to him,” she said.
“He’s kissing the side of my face,” Tinny said. “And he put his other arm behind me.”
“His hands were in sensitive areas and he touched me and touched my body,” she said. “It was like a selfie, but other things were happening simultaneously… His other hand that could not be seen was touching my body in sensitive areas.”
Batali said she kept asking for more selfies.
“It all happened so quickly and it was happening all the time, in different parts,” Tenney said.
Tinny noticed Batali’s eyes weren’t open in some of the photos and that they smelled of alcohol, she said.
Batali then allegedly asked Tini to come to his hotel room, and testified that she got goosebumps when he asked.
“Something like that, terrified, disgusting,” said Tenney.
Tinny left and went home. Later, she told her friend about the alleged attack and they agreed never to eat again at Eataly, an Italian food market owned by Batali.
Tinny said she, speaking to an Eater journalist, detailed her account following a story about other women Batali had allegedly captured.
Tene filed a civil lawsuit, she said, but insisted she was not looking for the money.
Defensive questions, motives, and pictures
Upon questioning, defense attorney Fuller reviewed each photograph taken by Tenny and focused on a single photograph that showed distance between where they stood, and highlighted floor tiles between her and the chef.
“He was holding you, holding you close, right?” asked Fuller, who said there was roughly eight inches of space between the pair.
“It sure was,” replied Tenney.
“It doesn’t look like that in this photo,” Fuller said.
“He’s grabbing my ass,” Tinny said.
Fuller noticed a time gap between the first batch of photos and the second batch, three minutes later. Fuller argued that the time gap showed it was not in danger. He also challenged Tenny to her facial expressions, saying that she was not grinning but smiling.
Tenny was also questioned about eating at Batali-owned restaurants, although she told investigators in one of the deposits that the idea of eating in those restaurants was disgusting. Fuller showed her bank statements revealing that she ate at Italy with a friend who was aware of the alleged attack.
On Tuesday, before the verdict was announced, Tene’s friend, Rachel Buckley, testified that her friend told her about the alleged sexual assault about a week after it occurred. They talked for an hour.
“I think she was a little uncomfortable,” Buckley said. “But trying to laugh at her uncomfortably, as if it wasn’t a big deal. But it shocked her as a big deal later.” The witness said she felt a civic duty to testify about what she had learned.
In cross-examination of witnesses, defense attorney Courtney Caruso sought to highlight inconsistencies in Buckley’s testimony. At one point, the lawyer read a text exchange in 2018 in which the two women discussed a civil case against Batali.
“Dude, well at least you might get quite a bit of change out of the settlement,” Buckley wrote in a text.
“Hopefully, dude,” Tinny replied.
CNN’s Jan Casares contributed to this report.
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