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Teamsters Accused of Harassing 'Top Chef' Crew Found Not Guilty

Padma Lakshmi alleges that union members were “raining down racist, sexist, and homophobic threats"

From left: Top Chef’s Gail Simmons, Padma Lakshmi, and Tom Colicchio
From left: Top Chef’s Gail Simmons, Padma Lakshmi, and Tom Colicchio
Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images

A jury has found a group of Teamsters accused of harassing and intimidating Top Chef cast and crew not guilty on all charges, reports the Associated Press. Four members of Boston’s Teamsters Local 25 — Mark Harrington, John Fidler, Daniel Redmond, and Robert Cafarelli were each acquitted of a single count of conspiracy to extort and a single count of attempted extortion, according to the Boston Globe.

Top Chef, the popular and Emmy-winning culinary competition that airs on Bravo, filmed its 12th season in Boston in 2014. Series host Padma Lakshi claimed she and her colleagues were verbally abused during the course of filming at the city’s Steel & Rye restaurant. Lakshi alleged Teamsters members were “raining down racist, sexist, and homophobic threats and slurs as staffers came to and left the set," and that they specifically threatened her by screaming, "You bitch! You slut! We're gonna get you!"

The labor organization was picketing filming after Top Chef contracted a competing production company to work on the show.

Teamsters Local 25 denied the allegations, saying, “if the allegations were true, Milton Police would have taken appropriate action.” But the U.S. Attorneys Office District of Massachusetts indicted the four individuals in October 2015. Released emails between Top Chef producers and Boston politicians showed a strained relationship between the show and the city over the issue.

Jury deliberations began last Thursday. Following the reading of the verdict, U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock advised the Teamsters to pay closer attention to the line between protest and harassment. “I would encourage the defendants to think long and hard ... about approaching boundaries,’’ Woodlock said, according to the Globe.

Teamsters Acquitted of Threats, Extortion of ‘Top Chef’ Crew [AP]
Teamsters Found Not Guilty in ‘Top Chef’ Extortion Trial [BG]
U.S. Indicts Teamsters for Alleged 'Top Chef' Extortion [E]
All Top Chef Coverage [E]