Suspect in Letterman extortion pleads not guilty

Fri Oct 2, 2009 7:51pm EDT
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A TV producer pleaded not guilty on Friday to a $2 million extortion attempt against talk show host David Letterman a day after the comedian stunned Americans by revealing the plot -- and his sexual affairs with co-workers -- on his own show.

Robert Joel Halderman, a producer for the CBS news show "48 Hours," was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted grand larceny in a New York court appearance on Friday.

Letterman, 62, admitted on his "Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS on Thursday night that he had sex with women who worked with him on the program.

To a mixture of gasps and laughter, Letterman told his audience he went to authorities after receiving a package threatening to reveal the details.

Prosecutors said on Friday that Halderman appeared at Letterman's Manhattan home on September 9 and left a package in the comedian's car with a one-page screenplay outlining the affairs and a letter demanding "a large chunk of money."

Letterman, a fixture of late-night TV since 1982, married in March for a second time. The couple had a son in 2003.

Halderman faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted. The judge set bail at $200,000. His lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said the incident "is far more complex than what you heard this afternoon."

Several news websites said one of the women involved with Letterman was a former assistant on his show who also lived with Halderman for some time. They said the affair apparently ended before Letterman's son was born.   Continued...

<p>Robert Joel "Joe" Halderman listens during his arraignment in New York Supreme Court October 2, 2009. REUTERS/New York Post/Pool</p>