Robert Joe Halderman, the former CBS News producer accused of extorting David Letterman for $2 million, appeared in court today, as his lawyer asked the judge to drop charges. Why? Because, attorney Gerald Shargel claimed,“There was no extortion. There was a screenplay for sale. There was a commercial transaction. Nothing more.”
Last month, Letterman told the world that he was being shaken down for $2 million, with his extortionist threatening to reveal that the talk show host had sexual relationships with staffers over the years. It turned out that the suspect, Halderman, was involved with one of Letterman's past flames, former assistant Stephanie Birkitt. The Manhattan DA's office described Halderman's motives as being driven by a desperate financial situation while sources say Halderman just wanted to make Letterman "miserable" because he was jealous of Birkitt's relationship with him.
Shargel said the prosecutors' case "infringes on Halderman's basic First Amendment right to author and/or sell a book," because Halderman was only pitching a book/screenplay idea (set in "an environment" where sexual harassment was "fostered") to Letterman's attorney, who recorded their conversations. Shargel also pointed out the fact that Halderman accepted a bank check for $2 million proves he wasn't extorting Letterman, since checks are traceable.
In the meantime, Letterman's attorney said, "Mr. Letterman is fully prepared to see this case through to the end, including testifying at trial. Mr. Letterman -- David Letterman -- is not on trial. In fact, for 29 years in the entertainment business, there's never been a claim of sex harassment against him."