The television news producer accused of trying to blackmail David Letterman asked a judge today to dismiss the charges against him, claiming he was only trying to sell the talk show host a screenplay.
The lawyer for CBS News producer Robert "Joe" Halderman told reporters that his client "did not break the law," but was looking to do business with Letterman. Prosecutors, however, contend Halderman tried to get Letterman to pay him $2 million to keep his affairs with female staffers a secret.
"There was no extortion," said Halderman's attorney Gerald Shargel outside a Manhattan courthouse. He described Halderman's contact with Letterman as a "simple and straight forward commercial transaction [that] did not break the law."
Shargel asked the judge to dismiss the case based on a lack of evidence presented to the grand jury. He said the judge's decision whether to dismiss the case will be announced in January.
Letterman's attorney called the comedian a "victim" and dismissed Halderman's claims that this was anything but blackmail.
"Any attempt to direct attention on Letterman is wrong. He is the victim," said attorney Dan Horwitz. "This is classic blackmail no matter how Halderman's attorney wants to dress it up."
"These motions will be denied... and Mr. Letterman will testify in court and see this through to the end," Horwitz said.
Halderman's appearance in court comes on the same day of a "Good Morning America" appearance by a friend and former co-worker who said Halderman was confident and optimistic about his case.
Halderman, who has pleaded not guilty, was released on $200,000 bail soon after Letterman admitted to his affairs and accused Halderman of blackmail on his "Late Show." If convicted, Halderman could face up to 15 years in prison.
"He does feel very confident and is willing to go to trial if necessary," Arnot said.
Shargel told "GMA" last month that he was looking forward to having the late-night host take the stand.
"I'm here to say, 'Not so fast," Shargel said. "I look forward to cross-examining David Letterman, because I don't think the full story is before the public. There's much more to this story. "
Arnot agreed with Shargel, saying there is relevant information that has yet to be made public yet.
"What is not being talked about ... is what really happened between Letterman's lawyer and Joe in those sessions before the one that was taped," Arnot said, referring to an initial meeting between Letterman and Halderman before three subsequent meetings were recorded by Letterman's attorney.
Halderman had threatened to reveal "personal and private information" if Letterman did not accede to his demand to purchase a one-page screenplay he presented at the initial meeting, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office.
In a news conference last month, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said the screenplay described a scenario in which Letterman's world would "collapse all around him" and would lead to a "ruined reputation."
Morgenthau said the screenplay "covers all the necessary facts" to indict Halderman with one count of attempted grand larceny in the first degree.