Teamsters Off the Hook in ‘Top Chef’ Extortion Trial

Show host Padma Lakshmi previously testified she was “terrified” of the men

Four Teamsters — of the truck driver’s union — have been found not guilty in the U.S. District Court of all federal charges of attempting to extort jobs from the show “Top Chef” when it filmed in Boston in 2014.

The four men (Daniel Redmond, 49; John Fidler, 53; Robert Cafarelli, 47; and Michael Ross, 63), who belong to the Charlestown-based Teamsters Local 25, were accused of conspiring to extort “Top Chef” producers into giving them jobs and driving equipment in and around the Boston area.

“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi had previously testified that she was “terrified” when approached by the men.

Prosecutors said the jobs had already been filled by production assistants. The defendants had argued that while their actions may have been unsavory, they were exercising their right to picket for work and their actions did not constitute the federal crime of extortion.

The jury of nine women and three men spent nearly 20 hours deliberating the case. In a twist in the case on Monday, it got out that one of the jurors did not assume innocence over guilt, and the judge had to intervene with a note to the jurors.

“It is a cardinal principle of our system of justice that every person is presumed innocent unless and until his guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt from evidence properly introduced and admitted at trial,” wrote US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock. “Presumption is not a mere formality, it is a matter of the utmost importance.”

If convicted, the men faced up to 20 years in prison.


Looks like you’re enjoying reading
Keep reading by creating
a free account or logging in.