BOSTON (Reuters) – Celebrity chef and former television star Mario Batali is due in a Boston court on Friday to face a criminal charge that he forcibly groped and kissed a woman at a restaurant in 2017.

FILE PHOTO: Celebrity chef Mario Batali talks during an interview with Reuters at his latest restaurant, Del Posto, in New York, U.S., April 11, 2006. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Batali, 58, is set to be arraigned in Boston Municipal Court after being charged with indecent assault and battery.

It is the first criminal case against Batali after the emergence of the #MeToo movement, which has cast a harsh light on widespread patterns of sexual harassment or abuse of women in multiple spheres of American life and ended the careers of dozens of powerful men in American media, politics and business.

The woman told police that Batali in March 2017 groped her breasts, buttocks and groin and kissed her face after posing with her for a photograph. Authorities did not identify the woman, but the claims mirror those levied in a civil lawsuit filed against Batali in August.

Batali, who this year sold his stakes in his U.S. restaurants after the accusations against him emerged, denies wrongdoing, said his lawyer, Anthony Fuller.

“He intends to fight the allegations vigorously and we expect the outcome to fully vindicate Mr. Batali,” Fuller said in a statement.

Since the start of the #MeToo movement in 2017, hundreds of women have publicly accused powerful men of sexual misconduct that had often been overlooked by colleagues.

Batali’s charisma and culinary flair turned him into a restaurant executive, TV star, author and one of the world’s most recognizable chefs. He premiered on Food Network in 1997 on the show “Molto Mario” and in 2011 helped launch the daytime cooking show “The Chew” on ABC.

In December 2017, ABC fired Batali after four unnamed women accused him of sexual misconduct that they said spanned at least two decades. The Food Network had also canceled plans to relaunch “Molto Mario.”

The New York Police Department later launched an investigation after CBS “60 Minutes” reported in May 2018 that Batali drugged and sexually assaulted an employee in 2005. Batali denied the report, and police later closed the probe.

Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis


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