BOSTON: Celebrity chef Mario Batali is facing a criminal charge on allegations that he forcibly kissed and groped a woman at a Boston restaurant in 2017.
Batali, who recently gave up financial stakes in all his restaurants, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on a charge of indecent assault and battery, a spokeswoman for Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said.
It's the first criminal charge against Batali resulting from several sexual harassment and assault allegations that have crippled his career.
A criminal complaint filed last month says the woman told police that Batali noticed her taking a picture of him at the restaurant and offered to take a selfie with her, The Boston Globe reported .
The woman says Batali then grabbed her chest, kissed her face and touched her groin without her consent.
The details in the complaint mirror those in a civil lawsuit filed against Batali in August. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for "severe emotional distress" including anxiety and self-doubt.
An attorney for Batali told the Globe that the chef denies the allegations. His lawyer didn't immediately respond to an email on Wednesday from The Associated Press.
"The charges, brought by the same individual without any new basis, are without merit," Attorney Anthony Fuller told the newspaper. "He intends to fight the allegations vigorously and we expect the outcome to fully vindicate Mr. Batali," he said.
Several other women have previously come forward to allege sexual misconduct by Batali. Batali stepped down from daily operations at his restaurant empire and cooking show in December 2017 after four women accused him of inappropriate touching.
Batali has apologized for past behavior, but did not say what behavior he was referring to.
"I have made many mistakes and I am so very sorry that I have disappointed my friends, my family, my fans and my team," Batali said in an email newsletter he distributed at the time. "My behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility."