An attorney for the CBS News producer accused of attempting to extort money from David Letterman said today that the late-night comedian's talk-show confession did not tell the whole story.
"Joe Halderman was at CBS for 27 years. Here's a guy who was an investigative journalist for so many years," Gerald Shargel told "Good Morning America" today. "To say he was trapped in an extortion plot was kind of preposterous."
Shargel, the attorney for Robert "Joe" Halderman, declined to say what else he might reveal as the case continues.
"I'm not going to put it before the public," he said. "I'll put it before the jury."
Halderman, 51, a longtime, Emmy-award winning producer for CBS News' "48 Hours," pleaded not guilty after he was charged last week with trying to blackmail Letterman for $2 million, saying he had evidence of the talk show host's sexual affairs with staff members.
"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.
Freed on $200,000 bail, Halderman faces up to 15 years in state prison if convicted.
Judge Michael Melkonian also issued a temporary order of protection to keep Halderman away from Letterman.
In a press conference last week before Halderman's arraignment, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said Halderman demanded to be paid $2 million in an initial meeting with Letterman Sept. 9, when Halderman allegedly waited outside Letterman's New York City apartment at 6 a.m. "with a letter and other materials."
Three subsequent meetings between Letterman and Halderman were recorded by Letterman's attorney, Morgenthau said.
Shargel was adamant that his client did not have the criminal intent required for a conviction.
"The events happened. There's no question that certain elements happen," Shargel said. "What I've learned so far is that Joe Halderman did not have the intent required by the statute."
Shargel told "Good Morning America" that he had not yet had a chance to hear the tapes that prosecutors say prove his client tried to extort Letterman, nor read the transcripts.
And while he admitted that Halderman did attempt to cash Letterman's phony $2 million check, "the surrounding circumstances are what's relevant," Shargel 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 district attorney 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.
While the extortion plot and Letterman's subsequent confession of sexual affairs have made the comedian the butt of jokes on other talk shows, the case has also boosted ratings for Letterman's own show by 38 percent.