The U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts this week indicted the wrong man for harassing and threatening the cast and crew of Top Chef last year. Richard Jeffrey, one of the five members of Teamsters Local 25 indicted by the office Wednesday, had his charges quietly dropped. Another member of the Boston local, Michael Ross, was indicted in his stead.
It turns out that the two men look alike, and when prosecutors viewed crew members’ cell phone footage of the Top Chef incident, they mistook Jeffrey for Ross.
“They got the wrong guy,” Jeffrey’s attorney, Edward P. Ryan Jr., told Deadline. “It’s pathetic. When the police banged on his door at 5 AM, he thought it was the gas company coming to fix a problem in the neighborhood. They arrested my client at 5 AM and kept him in custody until 4:30 PM.”
According to Ryan, the mistake first came to light when one of the other defendants told the feds that Jeffrey had nothing to do with the incident in summer 2014, in which local police said Teamsters were “threatening, heckling and harassing” members of the Top Chef production that was filming on location. “Then they did some due diligence and realized that they got the wrong guy,” Ryan told Deadline. “They called me and told me they thought they might have the wrong guy. I told the prosecutor that they definitely had the wrong guy. They filed a motion to dismiss that day.” Ross’s attorney Kevin Barron told Deadline he did not want to discuss details of the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s office, which did not return repeated calls for comment, compounded the matter by attempting to cover up its mistake: Its website makes no mention of the error and, instead of admitting that it had indicted the wrong man, simply rewrote and reposted the press release — dropping Jeffrey’s name and saying only that “Four members of Teamsters Local 25 were arrested today.” The feds had said in the initial press release about the incident that “five members of Teamsters Local 25 were arrested today in connection with attempting to extort a television production company that was filming a reality show in the Boston area in spring 2014.”
The case arose from a Top Chef shoot at the Steel & Rye restaurant in nearby Milton. About a dozen Teamsters were picketing the site, angry that the show had not signed a union contract and that the production hired local PAs to drive cast and crew vehicles. When Lakshmi’s car pulled up, one of the protesters ran up to the car and screamed, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you f*cking whore!”
John King, Milton’s Deputy Police Chief, said the Teamsters were “threatening, heckling and harassing.” He said the first officer on the scene had to call for backup after the Teamsters “gave the officer trouble.” Reading from the police report, he said they were “hostile, swearing, and refusing to let people come in and out. Officers repeatedly tried to de-escalate the situation.”