An award-winning CBS News producer was arraigned in a Manhattan courthouse today, charged with blackmailing late-night comedian David Letterman for "a large chunk of money."
Robert "Joe" Halderman, 51, a longtime Emmy-award winning producer for CBS News' "48 Hours," was arrested Thursday outside the network's Manhattan offices and could face up to 15 years in state prison if convicted.
Halderman, with his hands cuffed behind his back, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment today and bail was set at $200,000. Halderman posted bail, but Judge Michael Melkonian also issued a temporary order of protection to keep Halderman away from Letterman.
Assistant District Attorney Judy Salwen, deputy chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau, had originally requested that bail be set at $500,000, saying, "The defendent attempted to extort $2 million from David Letterman."
"There is a serious question as to whether [Halderman] will return to court if lower bail is set," said Salwen.
Salwen said that tape recordings of two meetings between Halderman and Letterman's attorneys showed "clear, actual and explicit" threats against the comedian.
Halderman's lawyer, defense attorney Gerald Shargel, said today that he plans on going to trial with his client.
"There is another side to this story," Shargel said. "If I listened to what prosecutors said, I would be out of business a long time ago."
"The other side is something I am not going to discuss today," he added. "This story is far more complicated that what you heard this afternoon."
Shargel defended Halderman saying, "He has an impeccable reputation, he was a producer at CBS for 27 years, he's 52 years old. He was a responsible member of the community... He's never been in trouble with the law."
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau spoke at a packed press conference before the arraignment and said Halderman demanded to be paid $2 million in an initial meeting with Letterman on Sept. 9 when Halderman allegedly waited outside Letterman's New York City apartment at 6 a.m. with "with a letter and other materials."
Halderman then directed Letterman to "call him by 8 a.m. to make a deal."
Letterman met with Halderman again on Sept. 15, 23, and 30 at Manhattan's Essex House, and those conversations were recorded by Letterman's attorney, Morgenthau said.
"During subsequent meetings Halderman repeated his demand," the prosecutor said.
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, said Morgenthau. The DA said the screenplay described a scenario in which Letterman's world would "collapse all around him" and would lead to a "ruined reputation."
Also mentioned in the screenplay, according to the DA, was Letterman's professional success and a reference to his "beautiful and loving son."
Morgenthau said the screenplay "covers all the necessary facts" to indict Halderman with one count of attempted grand larceny in the first degree.
Morgenthau said the phony $2 million check Letterman gave to Halderman was "designed to bounce" and that Halderman was arrested after trying to deposit the check in Connecticut on Oct. 1.