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‘Top Chef’ jury tripped up on one member’s presumption of guilt

Defendant John Fidler headed back toward the Moakley Federal Courthouse on Monday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

Jurors charged with the fate of four Teamsters accused of trying to extort jobs from the reality television show “Top Chef” went home without delivering a verdict Monday, their third day of deliberations in a federal case being closely watched by labor and business leaders.

In the afternoon, the nine women and three men asked the judge a question that offered a tantalizing clue to the direction of their discussions.

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

Jurors must decide whether the four Teamsters — Daniel Redmond, 49; John Fidler, 53; Robert Cafarelli, 47; and Michael Ross, 63 — conspired to extort “Top Chef” producers into giving union members jobs driving equipment in and around Boston, where the show was filming in June 2014. The jobs had already been filled by production assistants, according to prosecutors.

The men, who belong to the Charlestown-based Teamsters Local 25, face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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Defense attorneys for the Teamsters, who hurled obscenities and racist and sexist slurs at the crew during filming in Milton, said the men were exercising their constitutionally protected right to picket for union jobs. The four men have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The question from the jury came after nearly 14 hours of deliberation. US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock sent a written instruction to the jurors, explaining the presumption of innocence.

“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.”

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Jurors are considering the testimony of 18 prosecution witnesses who testified during a trial that lasted a little over a week. Defense attorneys presented no witnesses, but stressed during closing arguments that the actions of the Teamsters, while rude and even offensive, did not constitute a federal crime.

They also used the testimony of one NBC executive, who said he had offered the Teamsters money to leave the show’s production team alone, to undercut the prosecution’s argument. The Teamsters’ refusal to accept the money showed they were not trying to extort the show, they said, but advocate for their members.


Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @globemcramer.