A judge found celebrity chef Mario Batali not guilty of sexual misconduct charges Tuesday but still chastised him about the 2017 incident at a Boston restaurant that led to charges.
Batali was acquitted of indecent assault and battery, according to a finding by Boston Municipal Court Judge James Stanton.
Stanton said “credibility" issues with the complaining witness led to reasonable doubt.
The accuser took the stand Monday, testifying that Batali groped her as she was taking selfies with him. The 32-year-old Boston-area software company worker said she felt powerless to do anything to stop the celebrity chef, NBC Boston reported.
“It was all happening so quickly, and it was happening essentially the whole time,” the woman testified Monday. “Just a lot of touching.”
She testified that she felt embarrassed by the 2017 incident.
“This happened to me, and this is my life,” she said when prosecutors asked why she also decided to speak out. “I want to be able to take control of what happened, come forward, say my piece and have everyone be accountable for their actions and behaviors.”
Despite the acquittal, Stanton still had harsh words for Batali.
"It’s an understatement to say that Mr. Batali did not cover himself in glory on the night in question. His conduct and his appearance and his demeanor were not befitting of a public person of his stature at that time," Stanton said.
Had Batali been convicted of indecent assault and battery, he could have faced up to 2½ years behind bars and been required to register as a sex offender.
Batali left the courthouse Tuesday without speaking to reporters.
He offered an apology in 2017, acknowledging that the allegations “match up” with ways he has acted.
“I have made many mistakes and I am so very sorry that I have disappointed my friends, my family, my fans and my team,” he said in an email newsletter at the time. “My behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility.”
Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden said Tuesday he had no regrets about pressing a case that did not yield a conviction.
"While we're disappointed in the judge's verdict, my office will not waiver in our support for the victim in this case," Hayden said in a statement.
"I'm grateful that the victim in this case made the decision to come forward, and to every survivor of sexual assault who makes that difficult decision."
A lawyer for the accuser did not immediately respond to a request for comment.