‘Top Chef’ star Padma Lakshmi expected to testify in trial of four Teamsters

Posted on: August 1st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi; Tommy Garcia/Bravo(BOSTON) — Top Chef star Padma Lakshmi is expected to testify in a Massachusetts trial of four Teamsters, with opening arguments slated for today.

Four members of Teamsters Union Local 25 in New England are charged with attempting to extort a non-union production company that was shooting episodes of the hit Bravo reality TV show in Massachusetts in June 2014. They’ve pleaded not guilty.

Lakshmi is expected to testify for the prosecution at the trial in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.

The allegations against the defendants concern a series of alleged incidents in 2014 regarding efforts by the production company to film at various Boston-area sites, particularly from June 5 to June 10.  The indictment accuses various defendants of attempting to intimidate members of the Top Chef crew on several occasions, with the apparent intent of pressuring the production company to hire Teamster drivers.

Some of the defendants allegedly at one point tried to enter a restaurant where production was underway and “chest-bumped and stomach-bumped crew members,” the indictment said. “The defendants continued to use and threaten to use physical violence … yelled profanities and racial and homophobic slurs … [and] blocked vehicles,” the indictment says.

Nine vehicles belonging to the production crew were later found to have their tires slashed, the indictment notes.

According to an FBI report obtained by ABC News, Lakshmi told the FBI she felt threatened when pulling up to the restaurant to film, describing the situation as “volatile and tense.” She said one of the defendants came up to her car when the window was down, leaned in less than 15 inches away from her face and said something like, “We’re going to bash your pretty little face in.”

One of the defendants, John Fidler, told ABC News in an exclusive interview before the start of the trial that he was working for the Teamsters Motion Picture and Theatrical Trade Division as a driver on the set of a movie when he was asked by his union local to picket one of the filming sites for Top Chef. Fidler says he believes he and the other four defendants are being unfairly blamed for the union action against the production company for what he called “a nothing show.” Fidler said he didn’t engage in any violence or use violent language toward the production company.

The president of Local 25 declined to comment to ABC News and is not on the witness list for the defense or prosecution.

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