Judge Won't Toss Letterman Extort Case

By JENNIFER PELTZ
|  Tuesday, Jan 19, 2010  |  Updated 2:30 PM EDT
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Halderman, 52, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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A judge on Tuesday refused to throw out the criminal case against a TV producer who is accused of trying to blackmail David Letterman.
    
Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon ruled against Robert "Joe'' Halderman's bid to get his attempted grand larceny case dismissed.

     Prosecutors say Halderman demanded $2 million to keep quiet about the "Late Show'' host's affairs with staffers. Halderman says he was just offering Letterman a chance to buy -- and keep private -- a thinly veiled screenplay about his life.
    
The case spurred the late-night icon to tell viewers in October that he had slept with women who worked for him.
    
Whether Halderman's conduct was blackmail or business "is a classic example of an issue that is best left for a trial jury to decide,'' Solomon wrote.
    
The 52-year-old Halderman, a producer for CBS' "48 Hours Mystery,'' could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He and his lawyer declined to comment outside court. His next court date is March 9.

Letterman's attorney, Daniel Horwitz, says the decision underscores the focus of the lawsuit.

"This decision strongly indicates that the focus of this case will be the facts of what Mr. Halderman did and what he said - facts that amount to classic extortion and facts that the Judge credited in denying Mr. Halderman's legal arguments."

Prosecutors say the financially strapped Halderman threatened to ruin Letterman's reputation with information he had gleaned from his then-girlfriend's diary. It described her relationship with Letterman, her boss, authorities said.
    
In subsequent meetings with Letterman's lawyer, Halderman laid out his cover story of selling a screenplay -- even insisting on drawing up a contract and getting paid by check in case of a tax audit, prosecutors said. Halderman told the attorney in a secretly taped conversation that he would sign a confidentiality agreement and would pledge to not take his information public, according to prosecutors.
    
Letterman's lawyer ultimately gave Halderman a phony $2 million check. The producer was arrested after depositing it.
    
Halderman's lawyer has said the transaction was just commerce, not a crime. Halderman threatened nothing more than a sale to someone else if Letterman said no, according to his attorney, Gerald Shargel. Shargel wrote in court papers that information about misdeeds, such as affairs, is "routinely suppressed through private business arrangement.''
    
Letterman's camp has said that argument is an attempt to deflect attention away from Halderman's conduct.
    
CBS has declined to discuss Halderman's status since his arrest.

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