David Letterman Extortion Plot Suspect Seeks Case Dismissal

By Dave Paris on November 10, 2009

NEW YORK — Robert "Joe" Halderman, the man accused of trying to extort $2 million from David Letterman, is seeking to have his case dismissed on the grounds that he was only trying to sell the late-night host a screenplay.

"There was no extortion. There was a screenplay for sale," Halderman's attorney, Gerald Shargel, told reporters outside court Tuesday. "This was a commercial transaction. Nothing more."

Shargel's comments came after he asked a judge to toss the attempted first-degree grand larceny case against the former 48 Hours producer. The next hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Jan. 19.

The scandal began when Halderman allegedly delivered a package to Letterman on Sept. 9 at 6 a.m., demanding a "large chunk of money" because he knew about the host having sexual relationships with female members of his Late Show staff.

Letterman responded by immediately contacting his attorney, who in turn met Halderman at the Essex House hotel on Sept. 15. At the meeting, Halderman allegedly attempted to blackmail the star in exchange for keeping quiet.

Last month, Halderman posted $200,000 bail and was released from custody after pleading not guilty to the charge. If convicted, the 51-year-old Emmy winner faces up to 15 years in prison.

Letterman revealed the alleged scheme during an Oct. 1 broadcast, calling the situation a "very bizarre experience."

"This morning, I did something I've never done in my life," said Letterman. "I had to go downtown and testify before a grand jury."

"I was worried for myself, I was worried for my family," he continued. "I felt menaced by this, and I had to tell them all of the creepy things that I had done ... The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show. My response to that is, yes I have. Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would."

Prosecutors contend that Halderman is in debt and likely hatched the plan to escape financial troubles. Court records reveal that he is on the hook for $6,800 a month in child and spousal support to his ex-wife, Patty Montet, with whom he has two children, ages 11 and 18.

"It's classic blackmail, no matter how Mr. Halderman's lawyer wants to dress it up," Letterman attorney Daniel J. Horwitz said outside court.