DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Crime

Unless You Kill Me...

Alleged extortionist feared "dangerous" Letterman

David Letterman

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Unless You Kill Me...

DECEMBER 16--The CBS News producer accused of trying to extort $2 million from David Letterman was a clumsy and paranoid shakedown artist who worried that retaliation from the late night host could include his firing, the torching of his home, and even his death, according to secretly recorded conversations.

In a court filing excerpted here, Manhattan prosecutors included transcripts of talks between Robert Halderman, the alleged extortionist, and James Jackoway, a Letterman lawyer working with investigators. Prosecutors contend those conversations prove that Halderman, 52, was illegally seeking hush money from Letterman, 62, in return for not disclosing details of the star's various sexual dalliances (and not just offering to sell Letterman a script, as Halderman claims).

"I'm not sure how crazy this guy is, or uh, how dangerous he might be, so just for safe keeping I'm going to keep a copy of everything," Halderman told Jackoway during a September 30 meeting. When Letterman's attorney asked why he feared retaliation, Halderman answered, "I'm worried about someone calling Les Moonves, and saying you know, there's a producer at "48 Hours" who should be fired, I don't want that to happen. I'm an employee in good standing, but should I be fired, mysteriously...If my house burns down...Any number of things that, I don't know this person, I've never met this person, I have no idea who or what he is or is capable of." Halderman added, "What is, what is to stop somebody from hurting me?...As I said to you, the only way to be sure that I never talk to anybody is for somebody to kill me." Moonves is CBS's president and chief executive officer.

Prosecutors also allege that Halderman threatened "some unspecified harm" to Stephanie Birkitt during a conversation with Jackoway. Halderman warned that Birkitt, with whom he and Letterman both had relationships, "should be careful what she says to people too, uh, about me or anything else, because if I hear from mutual friends anything untoward, it will cause me great concern." (6 pages)