The 58-year-old celebrity chef entered the plea at his arraignment in Boston Municipal Court. The charge is the first felony criminal charge Batali has faced since a number of women came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against him.
The arraignment lasted less than five minutes, and he was released on his own recognizance.
Court records say that, on March 31, 2017, a woman named Natali Tene tried to take Batali's picture without him noticing at a Beantown restaurant called Towne Stove and Spirits. They say that Batali noticed her and said "come here right now." She reportedly went over to apologize when Batali assured her it was okay, and offered to take a selfie with her. According to documents, Batali put his arm around her, grabbed her breast, and also "put his hand between her legs and touched her inappropriately." She alleges that he held her face before kissing her on the cheek and mouth. She believes that, based upon the way he smelled and looked at the time, he was drunk.
Batali, through his lawyer, Anthony Fuller, denied the charges against him. "Mr. Batali denies the allegations in both this criminal complaint and the civil complaint filed last August," Fuller said. "The charges, brought by the same individual without any new basis, are without merit. He intends to fight the allegations vigorously and we expect the outcome to fully vindicate Mr. Batali."
"Natali is grateful that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office in Boston has chosen to go forward in prosecuting Mario Batali on criminal charges of sexually assaulting her," said Tene's attorneys, according to ABC News. "The criminal charges brought against him are independent of the ongoing civil lawsuit. Mr. Batali must be held accountable criminally and civilly for his despicable acts."
Previously, Batali had a pair of sexual assault investigations opened up against him by the NYPD, but those were wrapped up without charges being pressed. The chef had also acknowledged behavior he deemed "deeply inappropriate," but he has "vehemently" denied that he's sexually assaulted anyone. His business partner, Joe Bastianich, also announced that Batali was "fully divested" from their restaurant empire, and he was also asked to step away from ABC's now-canceled cooking themed talk show The Chew.