Boston Teamsters found not guilty in 'Top Chef' trial
UPI News Service, 08/17/2017
Four men of Teamsters Union Local 25 in New England were found not guilty Tuesday of trying to extort the cast and crew of "Top Chef" in 2014.
Jurors cleared the men, including Daniel Redmond, John Fidler, Robert Cafarelli and Michael Ross, of federal attempted extortion and conspiracy to extort charges after almost 20 hours of deliberations, Us Weekly reported.
The Teamsters were charged with trying to extort a nonunion production company that was filming episodes of "Top Chef" in June 2014.
The men had set up along with other Teamsters picket lines outside the Steel & Rye restaurant in Boston because the Bravo reality series was filming with nonunion workers.
"Top Chef" star Padma Lakshmi had appeared in court to testify against the Teamsters and again stated that she felt threatened when she arrived on set with one of the defendants rushing her car to bully her.
"Top Chef" judge Gail Simmons also testified stating,"There aren't many times in my life I can recall feeling that afraid. I thought I could be harmed."
Lawyers for the defendants did not put on a defense, but successfully proved through cross-examination of government witnesses that the Teamsters lawfully picketed to replace nonunion workers on set," the Boston Herald reported. A previous Supreme Court decision forbids the charging of union members with anti-racketeering in the pursuit of a legitimate labor objective.
"We are disappointed in today's verdict," acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said in a statement.
"The government believed, and continues to believe, that the conduct in this case crossed the line and constituted a violation of federal law. The defendants' conduct was an affront to all of the hard-working and law-abiding members of organized labor. We will continue to aggressively prosecute extortion in all its forms to ensure that Boston remains a safe and welcoming place to do business."
Notably, Local 25's former secretary-treasurer Mark Harrington pleaded guilty to extortion charges in December and is currently serving six months of home confinement.
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