DA: Extortioner Told Letterman His World Would "Collapse Around Him"

Celebrity News Oct. 2, 2009 AT 1:08PM
DA: Extortioner Told Letterman His World Would "Collapse Around Him" Credit: James Devaney/WireImage.com; Brad Barket/Getty Images for TFF

A CBS News producer -- who is accused of trying to extort $2 million from David Letterman -- lurked outside the talk show host's New York City home early last month with a packet detailing his scheme, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said at a press conference Friday.

Robert "Joe" Halderman arrived at Letterman's home Sept. 9 at 6 a.m. to deliver "a letter and other materials" to Letterman as he was on his way to work, Morgenthau said.

Letterman found the package of embarrassing e-mails and photos in his limousine.

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"Halderman wrote that he needed to 'make a large chunk of money' by selling Letterman a so-called 'screenplay treatment,' Morgenthau said. "The one page screenplay treatment attached to the letter referred to Mr. Letterman's great professional success and ... his 'beautiful and loving son [Harry, 5].'

"The document then related that Mr. Letterman's 'world is about to collapse around him' as information about his private life is disclosed leading to a 'ruined reputation' and severe damage to his professional and family lives," Morgenthau said.

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"The package contained other materials supporting the screenplay treatment and directed Mr. Letterman to call him by 8 a.m. to make a deal. Mr. Letterman immediately contacted his attorney, who arranged an initial meeting with Halderman. During this initial meeting, Halderman demanded to be paid $2 million to avoid the disclosure of the private information in his so-called screenplay treatment," Morgenthau said.

Letterman, who is married, immediately called his attorney, the district attorney's office said.

Investigators set up an undercover sting operation at a hotel. New York police detectives were in an adjoining room with recording equipment and surveillance.

Halderman, a producer for 48 Hours Mystery, was arrested Thursday after he tried to cash a $2 million check Letterman's lawyer provided in Connecticut. He was indicted on one count of attempted first-degree grand larceny. If convicted, he faces from five to 15 years behind bars. Reports are circulating that  Halderman dated Letterman's former assistant, Stephanie Birkitt, who is allegedly one of the women at the center of the alleged extortion case.

Halderman will be arraigned Friday afternoon in state Supreme Court.

"Our concern here is extortion, and that's what we're focusing on," Morgenthau said.

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