Scott Eisen/Getty Images(BOSTON) — Celebrity chef Mario Batali stood before a judge in Boston Friday morning and entered a not guilty plea to a charge of indecent assault.
Clad in a black jacket, purple sweater and looking thinner than he has in previous public appearances, Batali, 58, was released on his own recognizance and was ordered to stay away from the alleged victim unless he's called for a deposition in her civil lawsuit against him.
Batali is accused of forcibly kissing and groping Natali Tene, 28, at a Boston, Massachusetts restaurant on March 31, 2017. Batali denies the charges, and declared earlier this week via his attorney that the charges "are without merit," and that he "intends to fight the allegations vigorously."
Batali's case returns to court July 12 but he doesn't have to attend. The judge warned Friday to him "stay out of trouble."
This is the first criminal charge Batali has faced regarding alleged inappropriate sexual misconduct. Police in New York investigated the chef but ultimately did not charge him.
Batali announced in March that he was stepping away from his restaurant empire amid accusations from several women of inappropriate behavior toward them. Batali was fired from ABC's The Chew in December, 2017 following an investigation into the reports.
In a statement released at the time, Batali said, in part, "I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt…much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family."
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