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Boston Teamster Sentenced In ‘Top Chef’ Extortion Case

Deadline logo Deadline 12/15/2016 David Robb
© Provided by Deadline

Mark Harrington, one of five Boston Teamsters who were indicted for the attempted extortion of the Top Chef TV show back in 2014, has been sentenced to two years of probation and six months of home confinement. Harrington, who pleaded guilty to the charge last month, also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and restitution of $24,023.

As first reported by Deadline, Harrington was one of about a dozen members of the Teamsters Local 25 who had had set up a picket line on June 10, 2014, outside the Steel & Rye in Milton, outside of Boston, where the show was filming. When Padma Lakshmi, the show’s host, arrived at the restaurant, one of the Teamsters rushed her car and screamed, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you f*cking whore!”

The Teamsters kept at it for hours, raining down racist, sexist and homophobic threats and slurs as staffers came to and left the set. Jenn Levy, Bravo’s SVP Production, wasn’t spared. Arriving at the restaurant in her black SUV, she soon found herself running a gauntlet of vitriol. “She got out of her car in front of the location and quickly ran through the picket line,” a source said. “They were yelling, ‘You bitch! You slut! We’re gonna get you!’ It went on like that all day.”

It’s still not known exactly who screamed the threats, and federal prosecutors say that Harrington “had a lesser role in the criminal activity” and that he did not make any direct threats or menace the cast and crew.

Harrington, who was the local’s secretary-treasurer at the time of the incident, has apologized for his actions that day in a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock.

“Over the past 16 months I have reflected back upon that day with great remorse,” he wrote. “Your Honor, this prosecution and the allegations have shaken me to my core. It is not reflective of my character. Your Honor, I apologize to you and anyone else that was impacted on that day.”

In October 2015, Harrington was indicted along with fellow Teamsters 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 the Top Chef show.

Harrington was the only one of the charged Teamsters to have entered a guilty plea. No trial date has been set for the remaining four defendants.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston today laid out details of what allegedly happened the day the Teamsters intervened on the Top Chef shoot.

Harrington’s downfall began in the spring of 2014 when Top Chef producer Magical Elves Productions began scouting locations to film 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 Boston, permits must be approved by the city with the assistance of the Boston Film Bureau. Having secured the necessary permits, the production company commenced filming at various locations in Boston in May 2014. 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.

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

On 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, who then 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 producers 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, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, 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 Magical Elves 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 producers found a new location for filming outside the City of Boston. A city 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 AM on June 10, Harrington, Redmond, Fidler, Cafarelli and Ross showed up at the Milton restaurant. Two or three of the Local 25 members 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 U.S. Attorney’s Office said, the Local 25 defendants continued to 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 truck from delivering food. The Local 25 defendants also were 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.

Following Deadline’s initial reporting on the incident, Teamsters Local 25 officials flatly denied that their members had done anything wrong. Local 25 President Sean O’Brien rejected Deadline’s account of the fracas, saying that “the Top Chef situation as it is written is fiction at best.” Local 25 spokeswoman Melissa Hurley told the Boston Herald, “As far as we’re concerned, nothing happened.”

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