By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – The jury is due back in court Friday at the Top Chef extortion trial.

And it wouldn’t surprise me to see a verdict by the end of the day.

This is the conspiracy case against four guys from Teamsters Local 25 charged with violent harassment of the crew at Top Chef, the cable TV cooking show that chose not to hire Teamsters for some local shoots back in 2014.

topchef2 Keller @ Large: Teamsters, Prosecutors Both Went Too Far In Top Chef Case

Teamsters outside the Steel & Rye restaurant in Milton in 2014. (Photo credit: U.S. Attorney’s Office)

I’ve seen this stuff before, sometimes outside a big-time political debate where a handful of guys will turn out to curse and spit at the candidate they oppose and his family members as they arrive.

Apologists for it say they’re just fighting for their livelihood, but it’s hard to believe scenes like these are a PR bonanza for the Teamsters.

But will the jury find conspiracy in what might have been simple thuggery?

I have not been in court but from the reporting I’ve seen, it’s unclear if the prosecutors even came close to proving their complicated charges.

You can’t look at this case without thinking about the charges against two Boston city officials for allegedly forcing a concert promoter to hire union labor, especially because one of them was mentioned in the Top Chef trial.

Was criminal prosecution really the way to go in a case where neither defendant took a penny?

There’s a problem here. Union workers who feel endangered are going to fight back, and who can blame them?

But threats and strong-arming are not OK.

So I have an idea – maybe unions should clean up their act while prosecutors rethink over-charging their desperation.

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