Trial of Teamsters accused of ‘Top Chef’ extortion plot wraps up

BOSTON (Reuters) – A federal prosecutor on Thursday urged jurors in Boston to convict four Teamsters union members charged with trying in 2014 to extort jobs from a television production company filming “Top Chef” through tactics that included slashing tires and physically threatening host Padma Lakshmi.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristina Barclay, in her closing argument, told jurors in federal court that the Teamsters threatened the Bravo network cooking competition show’s cast and crew, with one telling Lakshmi he would “bash her pretty little face in.”

Barclay said the Teamsters yelled racist and homophobic slurs, slashed tires and threatened to shut down filming to secure wages for unnecessary services from the production, which already had hired non-union workers to shoot “Top Chef” in Boston.

“The defendants, through their words and actions, were trying to scare the production crew,” Barclay said.

Oscar Cruz, a lawyer for defendant Daniel Redmond, argued the four members of Teamsters Local 25 were engaged in legitimate picketing as the union tried to negotiate to secure jobs.

“This case is not about offensive language, belly-bumping, or property damage,” he said. “And it’s not a referendum on whether you care for the Teamsters.”

FILE PHOTO: Teamsters Local 25 members Daniel Redmond (L) and Robert Cafarelli (C) enter the federal court in Boston, Massachusettes, U.S., July 31, 2017.Nate Raymond/File Photo

Lawyers for the other three Teamsters, John Fidler, Robert Cafarelli and Michael Ross, will make their closing arguments later on Thursday. All four men have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and attempted extortion charges.

Prosecutors said that on June 5, 2014, Redmond approached the show’s crew while it was filming at a hotel, demanded union members be hired as drivers and told a producer to call Mark Harrington, his union supervisor.

They said several locations withdrew from participating in the show after the union threatened to picket them, prompting production company Magical Elves to film at the Steel & Rye restaurant in the suburb of Milton.

Harrington, Redmond, Fidler, Cafarelli and Ross showed up at the restaurant and members of the group threatened crew members and blocked food deliveries, Barclay told jurors.

She cited witness testimony in saying that some Teamsters also swarmed a van bringing Lakshmi to the set, including Fidler, who she said told the host: “We’re going to bash your pretty little face in.”

Harrington was sentenced in…

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