Alleged Letterman extortionist said he needed to 'make a large chunk of money'
Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said today that a “48 Hours” producer wrote to David Letterman saying that he needed to “make a large chunk of money” and included a one-page screenplay treatment describing how the “Late Show” host would have a “ruined reputation” after he exposed details of his private life.
Robert Joel Halderman, 51, a longtime CBS employee, left the letter and other materials in the back seat of Letterman’s car outside his Manhattan home early the morning of Sept. 9. In his proposed screenplay, he referred to Letterman’s professional success and his “beautiful and loving son.” He then wrote that Letterman’s “world is about to collapse around him” as details about his private life are exposed. He demanded that Letterman call him by 8 a.m. to strike a deal.
Instead, the comic called his attorney, who met with Halderman on Sept. 15. At that time, the CBS producer demanded $2 million to keep quiet information he had about sexual liaisons Letterman has had with his staff.
At the instruction of the district attorney’s office, Letterman’s attorney held two more meetings with Halderman at the Essex House, an upscale hotel, and secretly taped his demands. On Wednesday, Letterman’s attorney gave the man a fake check for $2 million, which he attempted to deposit in a Connecticut bank the next day. Halderman was arrested outside the CBS News offices on West 57th Street Thursday afternoon.
“The message of this case is that New York City will not tolerate the coercion or extortion of anyone, be the victim rich or poor, famous or anonymous,” Morgenthau said in a packed news conference at his downtown office. “The law prohibits conduct like the defendant’s and attaches severe penalties to it. We intend to enforce the law.”
Letterman described the extortion attempt Thursday night on his program, saying he "felt menaced" by Halderman.
Halderman was indicted on one count of attempted grand larceny in the first degree, punishable by up to 5 to 15 years in prison. He is to be arraigned this afternoon.
Morgenthau declined to comment on the specifics about Letterman’s behavior that Halderman threatened to expose or the materials he provided backing up his threats. “We’re not here to enforce the blue laws, we’re here to enforce the criminal law,” he said.
-- Matea Gold
Robert J. Halderman appears in State Supreme Court in New York, Friday, Oct. 2, 2009, for an arraignment on an attempted grand larceny charge. Halderman, a CBS producer, pleaded not guilty to trying to blackmail David Letterman for $2 million in a plot that spurred the TV host to acknowledge sexual relationships with women who worked on his show. (AP Photo/Pool, Steve Hirsch)