Teamsters Found Not Guilty in ‘Top Chef’ Extortion Trial

All four defendants were found not guilty of both charges, extortion and attempted extortion.

The four Boston union members accused of intimidating the staff and crew of the reality TV show "Top Chef" during a shoot in Massachusetts have been found not guilty.

The jury in the trial concluded its deliberations Tuesday morning. All four defendants, John Fidler, Daniel Redmond, Robert Cafarelli and Michael Ross, were found not guilty of both charges - extortion and attempted extortion.

According to federal prosecutors, the four Teamsters tried to strong-arm the non-union show for union jobs on set when they came to Boston for filming in 2014.

The defense, however, disagreed. During their closing remarks, they told jurors that the union has every right to protest in support of their union. While they did not call any witnesses to the stand during trial, attorneys for each defendant argued that prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof in the case.

"Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi testified that she was "terrified" when one of the men confronted her outside a Boston-area restaurant where the series filmed in 2014.

Lakshmi said she was a passenger in a vehicle outside the Steel & Rye restaurant in Milton, just south of Boston, where a group of men had formed a line so vehicles could not move forward. She said one man leaned his arm on her door and said: "Oh, lookie here, what a pretty face ... what a shame about that pretty face."

"I felt he was bullying me. I felt he was saying, 'I might hit you,'" she said

In a statement, U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said he was "disappointed" in the verdict.

"The government believes, and continues to believe, that the conduct in this case crossed the line and constituted a violation of federal law," he said. "The defendants' conduct was an affront to all of the hard-working and law-abiding members of organized labor."

After the verdict was announced, U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock urged the men to pay closer attention to legal and physical boundaries during any future labor actions.

"I would encourage the defendants to think long and hard ... about approaching boundaries," Woodlock said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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