Prosecutors say longtime CBS News producer Robert Joel Halderman (who's known as Joe), 51, threatened Letterman that he'd go public with word of affairs the late night star had had with female staffers of The Late Show With David Letterman" if Letterman didn't fork over the money. Authorities say they have tapes of Halderman negotiating with Letterman's lawyer and that Halderman tried to cash a phony $2 million check he got -- supposedly the hush-money he is accused of seeking.
Halderman, posted $200,000 bond and was released. The veteran producer of real-life crime program "48 Hours Mystery" has been suspended by CBS News.
But on "The Early Show" Monday, high-powered criminal defense lawyer Gerald Shargel, who's representing Halderman, contended that, "First of all, this (the allegation) is so obviously out of character. Anyone who knows Joe Halderman knows that this is completely out of character, to the point of not making any sense, if you think about it.
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"Here's a guy who is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, who has dealt with cops and wiretaps and undercover investigations virtually his entire life," Shargel remarked to co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez. "And the claim is that he intended to extort David Letterman in the way that is claimed? Look at the fact that there was a $2 million check. In the history of extortion, I don't think there's been a single case where the alleged extortionist took a check in payment. It just doesn't make any sense.
"I'm not saying he didn't take the check," Shargel continued, "but the question at the end of the day is, what was his intent? One of the things that the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, one of the elements of the offense, is that Joe Halderman had specific criminal intent. And I say to you and to the public that we shouldn't rush to judgment, because I think, at the end of the day, when the case is tried and after the cross-examination of David Letterman and the full story comes out, I'm confident that a jury will not find that specific criminal intent."
"All I'm saying," he later repeated, "is don't rush to judgment. All I'm saying is look at the character of Joe Halderman. Look at the fact that so many at this network who have worked with him over the years, who have known him literally for decades, have said that this is completely out of character with anything they know about Joe Halderman.
"He is a decent, competent individual who has never displayed any propensity or indication of wrongdoing, and he's entitled to the presumption of innocence and that's all I'm asking for at this point. ... I just want to say to the public don't rush to judgment."