Jury Deliberations Kick Off in ‘Top Chef’ Union Trial

BOSTON (CN) – A jury weighing federal charges against four Teamsters who antagonized the Boston set of the popular reality show “Top Chef” in 2014 began deliberations Thursday after six days of testimony. 

Robert Cafarelli, John Fidler, Daniel Remond and Michael Ross are all facing criminal extortion charges related to their interference at a “Top Chef” shoot just south of Boston during the 2014 season.

Prosecutors delivered closing statements this morning after the defense decided to rest without calling a single witness.

Focusing on how the union workers’ activity affected the “Top Chef” crew, the Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristina Barclay argued that more than picketing had been afoot.

“People don’t sleep with knifes,” said Barclay, referring to an ex-producer from the Boston area who testified that he quit the show out of fear and continued to fear for his safety at night.

Prosecutors say the picketing erupted from an effort to have the show hire union drivers from Teamsters Local 25.

Throughout the season in Boston, at least 11 tires were slashed on different cars used by the show, and non-union production staff endured a stream of profanity, as well as anti-gay and racist slurs, from union protesters.

Barclay recounted the angry confrontation that erupted after five Teamsters crashed a shoot in Milton, Massachusetts.

“Union members are allowed to picket, but this was no picket,” she said.

The four Teamsters on trial all had separate attorneys and each one took turns issuing closing statements.

“There’s no evidence before you of any violent actions,” said Carmine Lepore, who represented Cafarelli. “Look at the pictures. No one looks afraid.”

Kevin Barron, who represented Ross, argued that his client did not extort anyone, quoting testimony from a producer who said the Teamsters were offered cash to leave the set and they refused.

“The blood money was offered and refused,” he said. “That’s a gaping hole in the government’s case.”

Barron also challenged the jury to be skeptical of the witnesses, considering that all of the witnesses previously or currently work together.

Oscar Cruz, who represents Redmond, urged the jury to cut through the hype

“This is all exaggeration,” he said. “This is all Hollywood film-type people who don’t like being called names.”

After calling a series of witnesses from the “Top Chef” production crew, including host Padma Lakshmi and judge Gail Simmons, the prosecution rested on Tuesday. The defense immediately rested moments later, without calling a single witness.

Mark Harrington, a fifth union member was present at the “Top Chef” skirmish, pleaded guilty in 2015 and was sentenced to two years of probation, six months of which included house arrest.

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