Teamsters Who Intimidated Padma Lakshmi Found Not Guilty of Extortion

August 16, 2017, 1:23 PM UTC

The closely followed trial of four Boston union members ended Wednesday in a “not guilty” verdict.

The Teamsters were accused of conspiring to and attempting to extort the staff of Bravo show Top Chef. These are federal charges that carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Union members are historically protected from extortion prosecutions as long as their actions are taken in pursuit of legitimate union objectives, according to the Boston Globe.

The argument of the union members’ defense was that the actions were legitimate because the men were picketing to replace underpaid production assistants with experienced union members who would receive better wages.

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During a court testimony earlier this month, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi said she was “petrified” and feared for her physical safety in the presence of the Teamsters. “I felt he was bullying me,” Lakshmi said about one of the men. “I felt he was saying, ‘I might hit you.'”

Top Chef supervising producer Ellie Carbajal testified that the union members “swarmed [Lakshmi’s] vehicle and surrounded it.” She recorded a video of the men hurling anti-Muslim, sexist insults at her, calling her a “towel head” and a “c-nt.”