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DA: Letterman suspect sought to mask blackmail
NEW YORK ó A TV producer accused of trying to blackmail David Letterman for $2 million said he needed money to visit his son and would mask the transaction as a business deal, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Robert J. “Joe” Halderman also told the comedian’s lawyer he would keep copies of his information on Letterman’s personal life for “protection” and acknowledged misgivings about the scheme, Manhattan prosecutors said in court papers.
“The issue is your client does not want this information public,” Halderman told Letterman’s attorney in a secretly taped conversation, according to prosecutors. “I have said, for a price, I will sign a confidentiality agreement and I will not make this information public. That’s, that’s the deal.”
Halderman wants a judge to dismiss the attempted grand larceny charge against him, saying he was just shopping a screenplay.
Prosecutors, in a court filing asking that the charges be upheld, said Halderman’s comments make it “crystal clear” that his goal was extortion ó not a screenplay sale. Halderman told Letterman’s lawyer that he needed money to visit his son, who he said lived 2,000 miles away, prosecutors said.
A decision is expected next month on Halderman’s bid to get the case dismissed. Halderman’s lawyer had no immediate response to Tuesday’s filing.
The case spurred Letterman to disclose on-air that he had affairs with staffers.
Prosecutors say Halderman demanded $2 million as hush money after contacting the talk-show host with a threat styled as an outline for a movie script.
A package given to Letterman’s driver Sept. 9 included a letter saying Halderman needed to make “a large chunk of money” and a claim that the screenplay would depict Letterman’s life unraveling after his personal life was exposed, authorities said.
The package included photos, personal correspondence and portions of a diary in which Halderman’s ex-girlfriend described an affair with the comic, law enforcement officials have said.
Prosecutors said they recorded two meetings Halderman had with Letterman’s lawyer, including one in which the attorney gave him a phony $2 million check.
Halderman has said he simply struck a screenplay deal. He said in court papers filed last month that he sketched out a backstage story of the “atmosphere and conduct” of Letterman and the Late Showó with the characters’ names changed ó and peddled it to Letterman. He warned of nothing more than a sale to someone else if the TV host rejected it, his court papers said.
Letterman’s lawyer has said Halderman’s message and tactics were pure extortion, noting that he delivered his package to the comic’s car around 6 a.m. and demanded a response within two hours.
Halderman, a 52-year-old producer for CBS’ 48 Hours Mystery, has pleaded not guilty. He could face five to 15 years in prison if convicted.