September 15, 2016 / 9:13 PM / 2 years ago

Former Massachusetts Teamster pleads guilty to extorting TV show

BOSTON (Reuters) - A former head of the Teamsters union in Boston pleaded guilty on Thursday to attempted extortion for trying to intimidate a non-union company to hire union workers while filming a reality TV show, according to court papers.

The man, Mark Harrington, was accused of threatening to disrupt filming of “Top Chef” in a Boston suburb in June 2014, because the production company was using non-union workers.

Harrington entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Boston after reaching a deal with prosecutors under which he would serve two years’ probation, rather than the maximum sentence of 20 years he could have faced if convicted at trial.

He said in court that he changed his plea reluctantly, and believed that his actions were allowed under U.S. labor laws, according to local media accounts.

A member of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration has also been tied to the case. Kenneth Brissette, who heads the city’s tourism office, was charged earlier this year with extortion after prosecutors said he tried to withhold city permits for a music festival using non-union workers.

Prosecutors in court papers also tied Brissette, who has pleaded not guilty, to the Top Chef case.

Walsh, a Democrat, is a former construction worker who led the city’s Building and Construction Trades Council, a union group, for two years before being elected mayor in 2013. He has said repeatedly that he expects all members of his administration to obey the law.

Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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