Robert Halderman's Attorney Says Letterman Extortion Accusation is 'Preposterous'

Attorney Gerald Shargel to "GMA": "There's much more to this story."

Oct. 5, 2009 — -- 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."

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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.

DA Says Tapes Prove Extortion

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.

Robert Halderman Once Lived With Letterman's Personal Assistant

Halderman lived until recently with Stephanie Birkitt, 34, who had previously been a personal assistant to Letterman. Public documents indicate that Birkitt and Halderman lived together in Norwalk, Conn., from August 2005 to August 2009. Birkitt now has an apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Halderman has been married and divorced twice, according to public records. He had two children with his second wife, and has three stepchildren. His ex-wife won custody of their children and now lives in Colorado.

Divorce records show that Halderman was ordered to pay $6,800 a month in alimony and child support starting May 1, 2004.

Letterman, 62, confessed during a taping of "The Late Show" for broadcast Thursday night that he had had sex with members of his staff.

Letterman revealed to the studio audience that he'd received a package three weeks ago containing a threat to reveal those indiscretions if he didn't pay up.

Halderman has been suspended from his job as the investigation continues.

His colleagues were dumbstruck by the charges against him. Halderman has been described as a consummate professional who was well-paid and highly regarded.

According to a source close to Letterman, all the liaisons Halderman was allegedly going to reveal regarding Letterman occurred before the comedian's March 2009 marriage to Regina Lasko, with whom he has a son, Harry Joseph Letterman.

This is not the first extortion plot alleged to have targeted Letterman. In 2005, Kelly Frank, who worked as a handyman on Letterman's Rocky Mountain ranch in Montana, was arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap Letterman's then-16-month-old son. Frank pleaded not guilty but got 10 years in jail for overcharging Letterman.

Letterman, who was a longtime bachelor after his first marriage ended in divorce in 1977, has had at least one relationship with a co-worker in the past. Merrill Markoe, a comedian and author who was his longtime writer, was his girlfriend in the 1980s.

Markoe reacted to the news of the extortion plot on her blog, saying, "As you can imagine, this is a very emotional moment for me because Dave promised me many times that I was the only woman he would ever cheat on."

And former intern Holly Hester told that she had had an affair with Letterman but that he called it off because of the difference in their ages.

ABC News' Eileen Murphy, Michael James, Lindsay Goldwert, Brandon Bodow and Richard Esposito contributed to this report.