Chef Mario Batali pleads not guilty to assault charge

BOSTON (AP) -- Celebrity chef Mario Batali has pleaded not guilty to an allegation that he forcibly kissed and groped a woman at a Boston restaurant in 2017.

The court entered a not guilty plea to a charge of indecent assault and battery on Batali's behalf during a brief hearing in a Boston court on Friday.

Batali was released and ordered to stay away from the woman.

The woman says Batali noticed her taking a photo of him and invited her to take a selfie with him.

The woman says Batali then groped and kissed her repeatedly without her consent.

Batali's lawyer has said the charge is "without merit" and Batali expects to be vindicated.

Batali stepped down from daily operations at his restaurant empire in 2017 after four women accused him of inappropriate touching.

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