The Chicago Syndicate: Top Chef
Showing posts with label Top Chef. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Top Chef. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Teamsters Not Guilty in ‘Top Chef’ Extortion Trial

The four Teamsters members who crashed the filming of the “Top Chef” television show at a restaurant in Milton in 2014 were acquitted Tuesday of all criminal charges in a case that was closely followed by the entertainment industry and organized labor.

The verdict from the jury of nine women and three men was announced in US District Court in Boston around 11 a.m. Tuesday, prompting bear hugs and backslapping between defense lawyers and defendants, smiles and tears of relief, and at least one prayer of thanks.

“Oh, my God!” cried out one woman as the acquittals were announced. “Thank you, Jesus!”

The Teamsters — Daniel Redmond, 49; John Fidler, 53; Robert Cafarelli, 47; and Michael Ross, 63 — were each acquitted of a single count of conspiracy to extort and a single count of attempted extortion. They are members of the Charlestown-based Teamsters Local 25.

US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, who presided over the trial, which explored the line between lawful union advocacy and menacing criminal activity, urged the defendants to pay closer attention to legal and physical boundaries in future labor action. “I would encourage the defendants to think long and hard . . . about approaching boundaries,’’ he said from the bench.

As he left the courthouse, Cafarelli said that when he was standing in the courtroom, waiting for the verdict to be announced, his heart was racing, but his mind was blank. Asked by a reporter for his reaction to having faced criminal charges, he replied in a sarcastic tone, “I’m thrilled I went through the process.” He then walked away, saying as he went, “I want to call my kids. That’s what I want to do.”

The case included testimony over a week from 17 witnesses, including “Top Chef” celebrity host Padma Lakshmi and judge Gail Simmons, who described feeling terrified and possibly being physically assaulted as they arrived at the Steel & Rye restaurant where the Teamsters were waiting.

“One guy came up, was coming toward the car, and he seemed really mad. They all seemed heated up,” Lakshmi told jurors. “I felt he was bullying me. I felt he was saying, ‘I might hit you.’ . . . I was just petrified and wanted it to be over.”

None of the defendants testified on their own behalf, but defense attorneys said in closing arguments that while the Teamsters might have used rough language, or behavior that might have seemed threatening, their actions were legal under federal law.

“There is a recognition that the Teamsters have the right to protest. . . . It doesn’t help anybody to have a production company come in to town, take away [union] jobs,’’ said defense attorney Oscar Cruz Jr.

The trial also generated attention on the administration of Mayor Martin J. Walsh as at least three witnesses testified that a top Walsh aide sought to withhold city permits for “Top Chef” unless the show hired union members.

The show began to film in Milton after two Boston restaurants canceled their participation following a tip from City Hall’s tourism chief, Kenneth Brissette, that the union would picket, according to testimony and court records.

Brissette and another aide, Timothy Sullivan, face extortion charges in a separate case alleging that they threatened to revoke permits for the Boston Calling music festival because organizers would not hire union members. They are set to go on trial in January, and the two have been on paid leave since their arrest last year.

Walsh has declined to answer questions about that case or the allegations made against Brissette in the “Top Chef” trial.

The jury started deliberations Thursday. In an unusual twist Monday afternoon, the forewoman sent a note to Woodlock reporting that one juror did not believe in the constitutional principle that people are innocent of a crime until proven guilty.

“We have a juror who is assuming guilt over innocence,’’ the jury forewoman wrote. “We are not sure how to go on from here. Any suggestions would be helpful.”

Woodlock, in his written response, emphasized the meaning of the presumption of innocence in American courts. “It is a cardinal principle of our system of justice that every person is presumed innocent unless and until his guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt from evidence properly introduced and admitted at trial,” Woodlock wrote. “Presumption is not a mere formality, it is a matter of the utmost importance.”

Woodlock told jurors he would make their names publicly available Thursday. “You don’t have to talk to anybody at all. You were engaged in very tough discussions,’’ Woodlock said. “I leave it to you.”

Thanks to John R. Ellement, Milton J. Valencia and Maria Cramer.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Teamster Sentenced for Attempted Extortion of #TopChef Reality Television Production Company

A member of Teamsters Local 25 was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with his attempted extortion of a Top Chef reality television production company in June of 2014.

Mark Harrington, 62, of Andover, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to two years of probation with six months of home confinement, and ordered to pay a fine of $10,000 and restitution of $24,023. In November 2016, Harrington pleaded guilty to one count of attempted extortion.

In October 2015, Harrington was indicted along with John Fidler, Daniel Redmond, Robert Cafarelli, and Michael Ross for conspiring to extort and attempted extortion of money to be paid as wages for imposed, unwanted, and unnecessary and superfluous services from a reality television production company.

Beginning in spring 2014, a non-union production company began scouting locations to film a reality television show in Boston. A stage location was set up in Woburn, and a number of filming locations were chosen in and around the Boston area. In order to film in the City of Boston, permits must be approved by the City of Boston with the assistance of the Boston Film Bureau. In May 2014, with the necessary permits from the City of Boston, the company commenced filming at various locations in Boston. The company was scheduled to conduct further filming in the City of Boston, including at a hotel, a restaurant, and a college, in June 2014.

The company was not a signatory to any collective bargaining agreement with Local 25, and hired its own employees, including drivers, to produce and participate in the filming of the show.    

On or about June 5, 2014, Redmond allegedly approached the production crew as they were filming at a Boston hotel and demanded that members of Local 25 be hired as drivers. Redmond insisted that one of the producers on set speak with Harrington, the secretary-treasurer of Local 25. Harrington advised the producer that he did not care about the company and that all he cared about was that some of his guys get hired on the show. The producer explained that all of the drivers had been hired and there was no work for Local 25 to perform. Redmond allegedly demanded to know where else the crew would be filming and threatened to shut the production down that night. During several subsequent telephone calls that same day, Harrington and another union official warned the producer that if the company did not make a deal with Local 25, they would start to follow them and picket.

On or about June 9, 2014, a representative from the City of Boston allegedly called a second Boston hotel to inform them that Local 25 was planning to picket the company’s filming at the hotel the following day. In turn, the hotel notified the company that, despite their prior agreement, it would no longer permit the filming because it did not want to be associated with a Local 25 picket. As a result, the company found a new location for filming outside the City of Boston. The City of Boston representative made similar calls to other locations the company planned to film at in June 2014.

In the early morning hours on June 10, 2014, a Local 25 official told a producer that Local 25 was aware that the company was preparing to film at a Milton restaurant, and Local 25 would be sending 50 men to picket. As a result of that conversation, the company hired a police detail for the filming.  At 9:00 a.m. on June 10, 2014, defendants Harrington, Redmond, Fidler, Cafarelli and Ross showed up at the Milton restaurant. Two or three of the Local 25 defendants entered the production area and began walking in lockstep toward the doors of the restaurant where they chest-bumped and allegedly stomach-bumped production crew members in an attempt to forcibly enter the restaurant.

Throughout the morning, the Local 25 defendants allegedly continued to use and threaten to use physical violence against members of the crew and others; yelled profanities and racial and homophobic slurs at the crew and others; blocked vehicles from the entryway to the set and used actual physical violence and threats of physical violence to try and prevent people from entering the set. On one occasion, the Local 25 defendants prevented a food delivery truck from delivering food.  The Local 25 defendants were also observed by the crew standing in close proximity to cars belonging to the crew, nine of which were later found to have had their tires slashed.

The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Teamsters Indicted for Attempted Extortion of @BravoTopChef Reality Television Production Company #TopChef

Four members of Teamsters Local 25 were arrested in connection with attempting to extort a television production company that was filming a reality show in the Boston area in spring 2014.

“The indictment alleges that a group of rogue Teamsters employed old school thug tactics to get no-work jobs from an out of town production company,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “In the course of this alleged conspiracy, they managed to chase a legitimate business out of the City of Boston and then harassed the cast and crew when they set up shop in Milton. This kind of conduct reflects poorly on our city and must be addressed for what it is—not union organizing, but criminal extortion.”

“While unions have the right to advocate on behalf of their members, they do not have the right to use violence and intimidation,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “The strong-arm tactics the FBI has seen in this case are egregious and our investigation is far from over. Today’s arrests should send a message to those who think they can get away with manipulating the system that they better think twice.”

Mark Harrington, 61, of Andover; John Fidler, 51, of Holbrook; Daniel Redmond, 47, of Medford; and Robert Cafarelli, 45, of Middleton, were indicted on conspiracy to extort and attempted extortion of a television production company in order to obtain no-work jobs for fellow Teamsters.

According to the indictment, beginning in spring 2014, a non-union production company began filming a reality television show in and around Boston. The company hired its own employees, including drivers, for the filming of the show and did not need work performed by union members. Beginning on June 5, 2014, the defendants conspired to force the production company to pay Local 25 members for unnecessary work by threatening physical and economic harm to the company.

Among other things, the indictment alleges that on June 10, 2014, the defendants showed up at a restaurant in Milton where the production company was filming. The defendants entered the production area and began walking in lockstep toward the doors of the restaurant where they accosted film crew members and attempted to forcibly enter the restaurant. Throughout the morning, the defendants yelled racial and homophobic slurs at the film crew and others, threatened crew and cast members, and shouted profanities. The defendants also blocked vehicles from the entryway to the set, and used physical violence and threats of physical violence to try and prevent people from entering the set.

The charging statute provides a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.


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