Letterman Extortion Suspect’s Novel Defense


The lawyer for the TV producer accused of trying to blackmail David Letterman said that his client was only playing hardball in an attempt to get a screenplay deal.

Robert "Joe" Halderman's attorney asked a Manhattan judge to dismiss the attempted first-degree grand larceny charge.
Gerald Shargel said that Halderman was simply trying to sell Letterman a screenplay when he approached him with the package left in Letterman's car.

"There was no extortion. There was a screenplay for sale," Shargel said. There was a commercial transaction. Nothing more."

"I have no plans to do anything other than either sell you this option -- this screenplay -- to you and therefore you own the story. Or if you don't and you're not interested, as I've said, then that's fine, and I will proceed, and I will do what I want to do, which is what I've been thinking about doing, anyway -- which is writing a book," Halderman told Letterman's lawyer in one of the taped exchanges, according to the filing made today.

Shargel's court filing said Halderman simply realized he had "a valuable subject for a book or a movie" and sold it to Letterman, threatening to do nothing more than sell it elsewhere if the TV host rejected it.

Letterman lawyer Daniel Horwitz blasted back: "It's classic blackmail, no matter how Mr. Halderman's lawyer wants to dress it up. David Letterman is not on trial. Ask yourself if Halderman waiting in the shadows for a $2 million payoff is the way people market screenplays."

Prosecutors have said Halderman left a bizarre and threatening package in Letterman's car on Sept. 9, demanding $2 million to keep quiet about some of the "Late Show" host's dalliances.

The materials included a letter, a synopsis of a supposed screenplay that said Letterman's world would "collapse around him" when information about his private life was disclosed, photos, personal correspondence and portions of a diary, authorities said.

The diary entries were allegedly written by Halderman's former girlfriend and outlined her affair with Letterman.

Authorities then taped two conversations between Letterman's lawyer and Halderman -- including an exchange in which the lawyer gave Halderman a phony $2 million check, the Manhattan District Attorney's office said. Halderman was arrested after depositing it, prosecutors said.

The day before prosecutors unveiled the case last month, Letterman divulged it on his show, acknowledging he had had sex with women who worked for him.

Halderman, 51, a producer for CBS' "48 Hours Mystery," has pleaded not guilty. He could face five to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Meanwhile, Letterman's lawyer is ready to go the distance in the trial, his lawyer said today.

"David Letterman is prepared to see this case through to the end, including testifying at trial," Horwitz said in a surprise appearance outside Manhattan Supreme Court.

Judge Charles Solomon says he'll decide in January on the routine defense motions to dismiss all charges.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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