Testimony in the federal extortion case against four members of Boston's Teamsters Local 25 union ended Tuesday when lawyers for each of the defendants rested their case without calling any witnesses of their own.
The move comes after a steady stream of witnesses testified for the prosecution, largely presenting variations of the same story: That Teamsters harassed and threatened "Top Chef" crew members as they filmed the show's 2014 “Boston” season.

Central to the government's case was an incident in June, 2014 in which Teamsters showed up at a filming location, the Steel and Rye restaurant in Milton and allegedly disrupted the production by attempting to force their way on set, assailing the crew with vulgar, homophobic and racist language, blocking vehicles from entering the set and even slashing the tires of "Top Chef" vehicles.
"Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi took the stand Monday, testifying that Teamsters blocked her car and that she feared for her safety and the safety of her crew.  

Lawyers for the four defendants cross-examined those witnesses, focusing less on what they did see than what they did not: There was no witness to the tire-slashing, for example.

And while many witnesses described Teamsters using crude language and issuing verbal threats – and, in some cases, feeling physically threatened – they did not describe overt acts of physical violence.

By declining to present witnesses of their own, or having their clients take the stand, lawyers for the defense are likely preparing to argue either that the acts the government describes do not constitute the crime for which they are being tried – conspiracy to commit extortion.

Lawyers for the defendants have argued that the men have rights, constitutionally and under labor laws, to picket and advocate on behalf of their members for jobs. And the men are not being accused of lesser crimes like harassment or disturbing the peace.

However, the defense could also lean heavily on another angle: For all the testimony offered by prosecutors, there were very few instances in which witnesses were able to positively identify the individual defendants.

In fact, witnesses variously described a group of between about a half dozen to a dozen Teamsters on the scene, and were often hazy in their recollection of which individuals engaged in what behavior. When presented with a photo-lineup by FBI agents while the incident was under investigation, many witnesses were unable to identify the defendants.

Probably less germane to the outcome of this case was testimony offered by prosecution witnesses involving exchanges between a show location scout and then City of Boston Tourism chief Kenneth Brissette.

Brissette has been charged with extortion in a separate case, along with City Hall senior aide Timothy Sullivan. The city hall aides are accused of conspiring to withhold permits for events, including "Top Chef" and the "Boston Calling" music festival, if the productions didn't hire union labor.

The location scout, Derek Cunninghan, testified that Brissette had told him not to hand over permits that had already been issued to "Top Chef" after Teamsters approached members of the show.

The case against Brissette and Sullivan has yet to go to trial.

Closing arguments in the Teamsters case are scheduled for Thursday.