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Man charged in TV host Letterman extortion plot

A CBS News employee has been indicted in an extortion plot against TV late night talk show host David Letterman, who was forced to acknowledge sexual relationships with female staffers on his show after the man tried to blackmail him for US$2 million, the Manhattan district attorney said yesterday.

Robert J. "Joe" Halderman, a producer for the true-crime show "48 Hours," was arrested Thursday and indicted on one count of attempted first-degree grand larceny, punishable from five to 15 years upon conviction, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.

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

The district attorney's office said Halderman left a letter and other material for Letterman, whose show also is on the CBS network, early September 9. He wrote that he needed "to make a large chunk of money" by selling Letterman a screenplay treatment.

The letter told Letterman that his world was "about to collapse around him" when information about his private life is disclosed. He said it would lead to "a ruined reputation" and severe damage to his professional and family life.

Letterman immediately contacted his lawyer, who arranged a meeting with Halderman. At the meeting, Halderman demanded US$2 million for not releasing the material, the district attorney's office said. After the meeting, Letterman and his lawyer contacted the DA's office and the investigation began.


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