Celebrity chef Mario Batali pleads not guilty to sex assault charge

Celebrity chef Mario Batali is arraigned on a charge of indecent assault and battery at Boston Municpal Court in Boston, Massachusetts, US on May 24, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - American celebrity chef Mario Batali pleaded not guilty on Friday (May 24) to a charge of indecent assault and battery stemming from accusations that he groped a woman in a Boston restaurant in 2017.

Reporters flocked around Batali, who has been accused of sexual assault by several women, as he arrived at the Boston Municipal Court.

He made no comment before or after his arraignment.

The Seattle-born chef, 58, was ordered to stay away from the alleged victim.

The next hearing in the case was set for July 12.

Batali has faced a series of allegations since December 2017, but this was the first time he has been formally charged.

The case dates back to the first half of that year.

The accuser reportedly met the chef while they were dining separately at Boston restaurant Towne Stove And Spirits.

Noting that the young woman was trying to take a picture of him, he asked her to join him for a wefie. Once she was beside him, he allegedly kissed and groped her.

"Batali abused his celebrity status... while taking the photograph, he groped her breasts, buttocks and genitals and kissed her repeatedly without consent," her lawyer said.

The many allegations have led Batali to apologise publicly, take a sidelined role in his businesses and leave The Chew television programme.

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