Four members of Teamsters Local 25 were arrested in September on charges of extortion related to the filming of reality TV show “Top Chef” in the Boston area last year. According to the indictment, the members chased a legitimate business out of the City of Boston by use of “thug-tactics” and later harassed the cast and crew when they began filming in Milton. The show had apparently hired non-union crews for the production, and the Teamsters took action to change that.
When Advocacy Crosses the Line Into Extortion
While the purpose of unions is to advocate for better work and better conditions for their members, prosecutors say that the Teamsters crossed the line. Extortion is a felony and is defined as the gaining of property or money by force or threat of:
- Property damage,
- Harm to reputation, or
- Unfavorable governmental action
While it’s one thing for the union to express its desire that the production hire its workers, the Teamsters crossed the line into extortion when its members:
- Slashed tires at the set of the production
- Verbally assaulted cast and crew of the production
- Threatened bodily harm to cast and crew
- Threatened venues with picketing where the production was to be filmed
- Blocked vehicles from entering the set
Penalties for Federal Extortion Charges
Penalties for federal crimes are dictated by federal sentencing guidelines. If convicted of the offenses that these Teamster members are charged with, they could be sentenced to:
- Up to 20 years in prison
- Up to 3 years of supervised released
- Up to $250,000 fine
The actual sentence that each member will receive will depend on the circumstances of their involvement and whether they make a plea deal.
Federal sentences for extortion are much steeper than they are for extortion charges under Massachusetts law. Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 265, Section 25, penalties on a charge for extortion can include:
- Up to 15 years in state prison, or
- Up to 2 ½ years in a house of correction, and/or
- Up to $5,000 fine
Proving the Crime of Extortion
In order to be convicted of the crime of extortion, a prosecutor is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant made a verbal, written or printed communication;
- The communication constituted a threat;
- The defendant had malicious intent in making the threat;
- The defendant accused another person of a crime or threatened injury to a person or their property;
- The defendant made the threat with the intent to extort money or other advantage, or to compel another person to act against his or her own will.
Whether or not the defendant actually achieved his or her objective in the extortion is irrelevant.
If You Have Been Charged With Extortion, Call Keegan Law
Extortion is a serious crime with steep penalties. Protect your rights and your future by calling a criminal defense lawyer at Keegan Law. Our Boston crime attorneys have years of experience in defending the rights of those accused of extortion crimes. To learn more about your criminal charges and the specific ways that we can protect you, contact our firm for a free case evaluation today.