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Mario Batali acquittal underscores perils of #MeToo cases



BOSTON – Bill Cosby used to be launched from jail when his conviction that he drugged and assaulted a girl used to be overturned. Quarterback Deshaun Watson landed a record-setting $230 million contract, in spite of an investigation into allegations he assaulted 22 ladies. Celebrity chef Mario Batali used to be acquitted this week on simply the second one day of his sexual attack trial in Boston.

Nearly 5 years into the #MeToo generation, former prosecutors, felony mavens and sufferers’ advocates say prosecuting sexual misconduct circumstances has confirmed to be no more straightforward than prior to the reckoning that ignited a firestorm of accusations towards robust, apparently untouchable males.

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Cases similar to Batali’s, if not anything else, strengthen how the legal justice device stays “an extremely imperfect tool” for addressing the wishes of survivors, mentioned Emily Martin, a vice chairman on the National Women’s Law Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy crew.

“Failure to get a criminal conviction doesn’t mean that abuse didn’t happen or that it was okay,” she mentioned. “It will often be extremely hard to prove sexual misconduct beyond a reasonable doubt, especially given the gender stereotypes that lead many people to be especially distrusting when women share their experiences of sexual assault.”

Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Ian Polumbaum, who helped prosecute Batali, declined to remark in particular in regards to the case Wednesday however mentioned sexual attack circumstances are a few of the maximum difficult to prosecute.

“Sexual assault victims are trusted less than nearly every other crime victim,” he mentioned. “That’s the perception we’re always fighting. Part of it is public attitude, part of it is the private nature of the crime in most cases.”

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Accusing an individual of wealth or stature simplest provides to the problem as a result of the heightened public consideration and the greater scrutiny of the sufferer’s alleged motives, Polumbaum mentioned.

“We’re not afraid to bring the tough cases if supported by evidence,” he added. “And we hope survivors are not deterred, either.”

Batali’s case additionally reinforces how a very powerful the credibility of the accuser is in a misconduct case, particularly when there’s scant further proof or witnesses to reinforce the claims, says Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor in California who’s now a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

The former Food Network persona Batali, 61, used to be accused of aggressively kissing and groping a girl whilst taking a selfie at a bar in 2017. Boston prosecutors in large part depended on footage taken on the bar that evening and the testimony of the now 32-year-old device corporate employee who accused him of the misconduct.

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But Batali’s attorneys honed in at the lady’s pending civil go well with towards Batali, which seeks greater than $50,000 in damages, in addition to her fresh admission that she’d attempted to get out of jury accountability in any other legal case through claiming to be clairvoyant and, in a separate incident, faked rent paperwork simply to get out of paying a $200 fitness center price.

“These cases are never going to be easy,” Levenson mentioned. “But even in the #MeToo era, you need credible victims.”

Levenson hopes the Batali verdict serves as a cautionary reminder to abuse survivors that they’re going to at all times be held to the next usual, particularly in top profile circumstances.

“There’s more temptation in these cases to go off course, and by doing so, you undercut the credibility of your own case,” Levenson mentioned. “The whole celebrity nature of it leads victims to do things like offer to sell their story, make demands for money or somehow sensationalize what occurred.”

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But Stewart Ryan, a former assistant district attorney in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, who helped prosecute Cosby, argued a sexual abuse survivor also seeking damages in a civil lawsuit should be viewed no differently than someone who was hit by a drunk driver suing the defendant while they face criminal charges.

He also stressed the rate of false reports of sexual assault are “minute” in comparison to the “far greater percentage of survivors” who by no means file an assault in any respect.

“One reason, unfortunately, is the sort of tactics employed here, questioning the motives of a survivor with questions wholly unrelated to whether or not a sexual assault in fact occurred,” Ryan said of the Batali defense strategy.

The Batali acquittal parallels another high-profile #MeToo case in Massachusetts that fell apart over issues involving the accuser.

In 2019, prosecutors were forced to drop indecent assault and battery charges against actor Kevin Spacey after his teen accuser refused to testify to being groped by the “House of Cards” star while working as a busboy at a Nantucket bar.

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Meanwhile, actor Cuba Gooding Jr. is poised to avoid jail time after pleading guilty last month to forcibly kissing a worker at a New York City nightclub in 2018.

Even disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s watershed #MeToo conviction in 2020 could be in doubt, with a New York court expected to rule soon on his appeal.

“Sometimes people think since the Weinstein trial and conviction that we are in a different time,” said Michelle Simpson Tuegel, a Dallas-based attorney who has represented gymnasts abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and other victims.

“People are definitely more aware and survivors are more supported,” she mentioned. “But by no means are we seeing the level of accountability, especially for people who are super wealthy, very powerful, and who are known to the public.“

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Associated Press journalists Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia, Michael Sisak in New York and Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this tale.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This subject material is probably not revealed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed with out permission.



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