BOSTON (WHDH) — A supervising “Top Chef” producer delivered emotional testimony on day two of the Teamster extortion trial Wednesday, explaining the moment when Local 25 members threatened to harm the show’s host, Padma Lakshmi, as she tried to cross their picket line.
In June 2014, five members of Teamsters Local 25 allegedly tried to shut down the production of a non-union Top Chef episode at Milton’s Steel and Rye restaurant. Witnesses told the jury that they chest bumped production assistants and threatened Lakshmi.
Producer Ellie Carbajal broke down on the stand as she described union members using slurs offensive to women, minorities, and gays. She testified that they tried to force their way in and that they blocked access to the parking lot for a time.
Carbajal explained that one of the men angrily approached Lakshmi’s car window and noted that the others said: “That’s the pretty one. We want to smash her face in.”
“They swarmed her vehicle and surrounded it,” Carbajal told the jury. “They were furious.”
Prosecutors said the confrontation left Lakshmi “paralyzed with fear.”
The defendant, Daniel Redmond, left court without commenting, as did his three co-defendants. A fifth man pleaded guilty last year.
An NBC Universal executive in charge of the Bravo channel production testified that Mayor Marty Walsh’s office tried to get him to sign a contract with the union and hire truck drivers.
David O’Connell testified that the city’s tourism chief Kenneth Bressette threatened to pull the shows permits unless Teamsters were hired. Bressette is facing charges in another case.
The government said the threats amounted to an extortion plot, but defense lawyers said it was not a crime. They said the union members were simply picketing lawfully.
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