No Verdict Friday in Boston ‘Top Chef' Extortion Trial

The defense says the teamsters were simply picketing the non-union crew

A second day of deliberations in the extortion trial of Boston union members accused of intimidating the staff and crew of the reality TV show "Top Chef" during a shoot in Massachusetts ended without a verdict.

Thursday, jurors heard closing arguments in a case that involves four Teamsters Local 25 members and the crew of the reality show "Top Chef." The jury began deliberating and continued Friday, but could not reach an agreement.

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.

"This was not a negotiation," said prosecutor Kristina Barclay. "The defendants, through their words and actions, were trying to scare production crews."

Prosecutors allege the defendants — John Fidler, Robert Carafelli, Daniel Redmond and Michael Ross — tried to threaten and intimidate crew members for jobs on the show that were "unneeded, unwanted and superfluous."

Cell phone video played during the trial shows some of the men used racial and homophobic slurs. Testimony from witnesses, including host Padma Lakshmi, described the encounter as terrifying for set workers.

"Unions are allowed to picket, but this was not a picket," she said.

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.

"This was a protest to replace non-union drivers with union drivers," said attorney Oscar Cruz. "This case was not about offensive language or property damage."

Cruz argued that the defendants did not want jobs or money from the show, as alleged, but instead wanted to stand in solidarity with union members.

Prior to beginning deliberations, U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock instructed jurors they had to decide “whether or not there were threats that were designed to exact payments for wages for services that were superfluous, or unnecessary."

Friday afternoon, the judge ordered the media, attorneys and defendents to stay in the room 10 minutes after the jury departed to avoid "unwanted encounters," as he said there had been a problem in this case with at least one member of the media approaching jurors.

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