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Boston Teamsters Found Not Guilty in Top Chef Extortion Trial

Photo: Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty Images

The group of Boston Teamsters on trial for trying to extort jobs from Top Chef was acquitted of all charges today by the jury. The four men — union veterans who ranged in age from 49 to 63 — were accused of attempting to intimidate producers into giving their union pals production jobs on the show while it filmed its 12th season in Boston. The show wouldn’t bend, and staff claimed that Teamsters Local 25 members spent the next two weeks testing out various methods of “persuasion”: shouting racial and homophobic slurs, slashing tires, breaking equipment, and even manhandling the crew physically. An alleged incident involving host Padma Lakshmi brought the case the most attention — she told jurors last week that one of the men threatened her “pretty face,” and she worried “he might hit me.”

But the trial was about whether these men tried to extort jobs, not whether they are jerks, and after almost 20 hours of deliberation, the jury decided the answer was no, declaring the defendants innocent of any federal crimes. They agreed with the defense attorneys who argued the Teamsters’ picketing represented a legitimate labor dispute, which is why they’d turned down Bravo’s money when the network tried paying them to go away. The Boston Globe reports the group “traded smiles” after the verdict was announced, with supporters yelling out things like “Oh my God! Thank you, Jesus!”

Jury Finds Teamsters Not Guilty in Top Chef Extortion Trial