The CBS News producer accused of blackmail "sextortion" attempt on talk show host host David Letterman has pleaded not guilty to grand larceny charges that could land him in jail for 15 years.
"48 Hours" producer Robert J. Halderman entered the plea during a brief appearance in Manhattan criminal court yesterday afternoon. Halderman's bail was set at $200,000 and he was released after posting bond. The judge also issued an order of protection preventing Halderman, who was handcuffed during proceedings, from approaching or contacting Letterman.
His lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said Halderman worked at CBS for nearly 30 years and had no prior criminal record. He described him as an involved father, who coached soccer, baseball and football for his two children, ages 11 and 18.
"This story is far more complicated than what you heard this afternoon," Shargel said outside of court yesterday, but he would not elaborate.
Prosecutors said the CBS newsman was deep in debt.
Halderman earned about $214,000 in 2007. He was ordered in 2007 to pay his ex-wife $6,800 per month in child and spousal support until May 2011, when the payments will be reduced to $5,966 until May 2014, according to papers filed in Stamford Superior Court.
He had asked for a reduction to $2,039 per month because his ex-wife, Patty Montet, was sharing a house in New Canaan with a man. But Montet argued -- and the judge agreed -- that her living arrangement was for convenience and not romantic. Montet also claimed Halderman was getting $1,500 a month from Birkitt.
"Mr. Halderman claims he is struggling financially, but it is difficult to see what, other than mismanagement and extravagant spending, is the reason for this,'' Montet's attorneys said in the court file. "His is a world of golf trips, vacations, increasing 401k assets, comprehensive benefits, security in employment, earnings as an award-winning producer for CBS, and home ownership.''
On Thursday, David Letterman told his dumbstruck audience that he was blackmailed for $2 million over sexual affairs with "Late Show" staffers -- and a CBS "48 Hours" producer is now under arrest and facing as many as 15 years in jail for the alleged extortion plot.
"The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who work with me on this show," Letterman said, capping in a jaw-dropping tale of sex, blackmail and secret meetings that was at times silly, smug and sincere.
The comic caught his studio audience off-guard, launching into the rambling story after delivering a standard monologue and taking the seat behind his desk. Nervous laughter followed his first comments, as the Ed Sullivan Theater audience waited for a punchline that never came.
"I have a little story to tell you," he began. He then said he had recently found a package in his car containing a letter whose writer claimed to have proof Letterman does "some terrible things."
"Sure enough, contained in the package is stuff to prove I do terrible things," Letterman acknowledged.
Prior to the show, Halderman, 57, a high-ranking producer on "48 Hours," which airs on the same network as "Late Night," was arrested and indicted for grand larceny, police said. Investigators executed a warrant on Halderman's Norwalk, Conn., home on Friday.
Using voter registration records, NBC News confirmed that a Stephanie Birkitt, once lived with Halderman, and at one point she also worked on the Letterman show.
In the September 2003 edition of the Wake Forest alumni magazine (pages 34-35), Birkitt (Class of 1997) gushed about working for Letterman. She called the Late Show a "fun work environment" and said Letterman was "the greatest boss I could ever have."
Letterman did not identify his tormentor on air nor did he name any of the women allegedly involved in his confession, but said he immediately went to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau after receiving the threat. Over the next few weeks, Letterman or his lawyer met three times with the suspect, who threatened to reveal Letterman's lurid secrets if he wasn't given $2 million. The ensuing investigation culminated Thursday morning in Letterman doing "something I’ve never done in my life,” he said.
“I had to go downtown and testify before a grand jury," he said. "I had to tell them all the creepy things that I had done.”
The alleged extortionist was arrested after he deposited a check from Letterman for $2 million. In a press conference this morning, Morgenthau was circumspect about the details but revealed that Halderman allegedly waited for Letterman outside his Manhattan apartment early on the morning of September 6 and delivered a letter and other materials to the talk show host as he left for work, the DA said.
Saying he needed to make a "large chunk of money," Halderman offered to sell Letterman a one-page "screenplay treatment." The letter referenced the talk show legend's professional success and his "beautiful loving son" and suggested that Letterman's "world is about to collapse around him" when the details of his private life were disclosed, according to the DA.
Letterman contacted his lawyer who set up meetings with Halderman at the Essex House hotel. During their final meeting on Sept. 30th, the lawyer turned over a $2 million check, which Halderman deposited the next day at a Connecticut bank, Morgenthau said.
During court testimony Thursday, Letterman said he copped to the sexual relationships with a number of female staffers at the "Late Show."
“My response to that is, yes I have. Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would,” Letterman said on the show. “I feel like I need to protect these people - I need to certainly protect my family. Hopefully protect my job. I don't plan to say much more on this topic.”
He did not apologize.
Letterman, 62, married his girlfriend of 23 years, Regina Lasko, in March. The couple have a young son.
"I know what you're saying," he said at one point. "I'll be darned, Dave had sex."
On the heels of Letterman's confession, CBS folks have gone into lockdown. A staffer for The Late Show arrived at the Ed Sullivan theater this morning saying only "I have nothing to add" before scurrying inside.
Even Rupert Jee, the owner of Hello Deli, which Letterman made famous, said "out of respect for the show I won't comment, it's obviously a touchy subject."
A spokesperson for World Wide Pants, the Late Show's production company, released a terse statement: "We have a written policy in our employee manual that covers harassment. It is circulated to every employee every year. Dave is not in violation of our policy and no one has ever raised a complaint against him."