‘Top Chef’ host ‘paralyzed with fear’ by Teamsters: prosecutor

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

August 1, 2017

By Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) – Four Teamsters union members threatened violence and shouted slurs to extort jobs from a production company filming “Top Chef” around the Boston area in 2014, leaving host Padma Lakshmi “paralyzed with fear,” a federal prosecutor said on Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Kaplan told jurors in Boston federal court that the Teamsters members went beyond the legitimate right of unions to protest by trying to secure paid jobs for work the non-union company did not need.

“This was all for wages for services not needed, not wanted and that others were already hired to perform,” Kaplan said in her opening statement. “That’s extortion.”

Defense lawyers said the men, John Fidler, Daniel Redmond, Robert Cafarelli and Michael Ross, were legally picketing outside the restaurant where “Top Chef” was filming as Teamsters Local 25 sought to negotiate jobs for its members.

“That is not extortion,” said Kevin Barron, Ross’s lawyer. “That is labor organization activity.”

The four men have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and attempted extortion charges.

The trial has drawn intense attention for its focus on the Bravo TV reality show and connection to a city hall staffer separately charged with threatening another event for not using union workers.

Kaplan told jurors 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.

Several locations withdrew from participating in the show after the union threatened to picket them, prompting the production crew to film at the Steel & Rye restaurant in the suburb of Milton, Kaplan said.

Harrington, Redmond, Fidler, Cafarelli and Ross showed up at that restaurant and members of the group chest-bumped and threatened crew members and blocked food deliveries, she said.

Kaplan told jurors Fidler stuck his arm into a van Lakshmi arrived in and said, “I’ll smash your pretty little face.”

“Ms Lakshmi will tell you she was paralyzed with fear,” Kaplan said.

Harrington was sentenced in December to six months in prison after pleading guilty.

Prosecutors said a member of Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration – Kenneth Brissette, the city’s head of tourism – had contacted filming locations about the union’s picketing plans.

Brissette has pleaded not guilty to separate charges he tried to withhold city permits for a music festival using non-union workers. Walsh, a Democrat and former union leader, has said he expects his administration’s members to obey the law.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone, Bernard Orr and Frances Kerry)

  • lynn whal

    a good shot of mace in eyes would get his att.

  • willnkc

    Big unions are nothing more than criminal organizations. That’s why the Democrat Party champions them, birds of a feather.

  • louigi

    And they wonder why membership is dwindling. They are thugs, have been and always will be!

  • James Dandy

    Some 50 or so years ago my father told me that unions would ruin this country. I didn’t quite know what he meant at the time but over the years I’ve realized how right he was. BTW, he was a union member.

  • Takiwa

    And to think, the Bravo network is very left leaning.

  • David Mason

    Death to all the black Chrysler driving thugs!

  • Shane Norkus

    Why not give these union thugs a dose of their own medicine?

    Post their names, faces, addresses and photo’s of their family members in a local or, even, a national newspaper and ask the paparazzi and their investigative staffs to occasionally follow them around, chronicling their everyday activities, nefarious or not.

    Never knowing when they’re being watched, I’m sure the paranoia will take over and they will do something truly stupid. They are, after all, union dupes, aka useful idiots.

  • Warpaint

    They are just as crooked as they ALWAYS have been they got wishy washy walsh in as Mayor, bunch of mobbed up douchbags

  • All American

    The Teamster Thugs⬇️

  • AtomicFury

    The larger unions are too corrupt. Time for a heaping dose of breakage in those particular cases.

  • dave22q

    It’s RI. Let them stew in their own juice. If they live there they deserve the consequences.

  • Tim Lass

    The producers of “Top Chef” just needed to choose a Right-to-Work state to do the show. That would have avoided all this drama.

    • Sure, Not

      Avoided the drama perhaps, but if the charges are truthful, illegal actions shouldn’t be tolerated in any state.

  • Bamf

    “That is not extortion,” said Kevin Barron, Ross’s lawyer. “That is labor organization activity.”

    Ohhhhh….I guess it’s okay then.

  • andrew moore

    The teamsters suck azzss…..I would never ever be a paying dues member of that bull shiot organization.