Teamsters Acquitted in ‘Top Chef’ Extortion Trial in Boston

Barbara Lynch Padma Lakshmi Tom Colicchio Gail Simmons Top Chef Boston
Barbara Lynch, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons on 'Top Chef: Boston.' David Moir/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Four Teamsters were acquitted on Tuesday, August 15, of threatening Top Chef producers and the show’s host, Padma Lakshmi, and demanding they hire union workers while the Bravo show was filming outside Boston during a June 2014 shoot.

After almost 20 hours of deliberations, jurors cleared Local 25 members Daniel Redmond, John Fidler, Robert Cafarelli and Michael Ross of federal attempted extortion and conspiracy to extort charges.

Lakshmi, who appeared in court on August 8, claimed during her testimony they rushed her car, yelled at her and were “bullying her.” Prosecutors alleged Fidler threatened to “smash her pretty face in.” Judge Gail Simmons also testified in the case and claimed, “There aren’t many times in my life I can recall feeling that afraid. I thought I could be harmed.” The Teamsters allegedly yelled slurs at producers and slashed tires on production cars, but the defense claims the four men were taking part in a legitimate labor picket line.

“We are disappointed in today’s verdict,” said acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb after the decision. “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.”

Mark Harrington, a fifth Teamster and the former secretary and treasurer of the Local 25 chapter, pled guilty to the same charges in December.

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