Teamsters Found Not Guilty in Top Chef Extortion Trial Despite Padma Lakshmi's Testimony That She Felt Threatened
Four Boston-area Teamsters have been found not guilty of extortion charges involving the Bravo series Top Chef – despite testimony from star Padma Lakshmi and crew members that they were threatened and harassed by the striking union members.
According to the Boston Herald, lawyers for the defendants – Robert Cafarelli, John Fidler, Daniel Remond and Michael Ross – had argued that the Teamsters protests outside of a Milton, Massachusetts, restaurant during Top Chef‘s filming there in June 2014 had been legal under a federal law that allows union members to picket if union members are in pursuit of a job.
Top Chef stars Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons and producers of the show testified that they were subject to threats and racial slurs from the Teamsters, who wanted driver jobs on the nonunion production.
Lakshmi alleged that one of the men leaned his arm into her vehicle while other union picketers stopped it and said, ” ‘Oh, lookie here. What a shame about that pretty face,’ ” according to the Boston Herald.
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“I felt like he was bullying me, like he was telling me he was going to hit me. I could feel my heart beat in my chest,” Lakshmi said, adding, “I felt threatened.”
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Top Chef supervising producer Ellie Carbajal also told the jury – whose names will be released later this week – that she was the subject of racist taunts, according to Deadline.
The court also watched a video recorded by Carbajal in which the protesters called her a “f—— towel head” and a “c—.”