The attorney for Robert Halderman, the CBS News producer accused of trying to extort millions of dollars from David Letterman, said on Tuesday that his client was not engaging in blackmail but merely trying to negotiate a book deal.
Gerald Shargel, Halderman’s lawyer, asked a New York judge to dismiss the grand larceny charges against him.
In court papers, Shargel argues, "a hard-driven arm’s-length commercial transaction does not constitute extortion.”
Shargel said the case "infringes on Halderman’s basic First Amendment right to author and/or sell a book."
Halderman was arrested last month outside of CBS’ New York offices, hours before Letterman told “Late Show” viewers about the alleged extortion plot.
Halderman was present in court on Tuesday but did not speak.
According to the court filing, Shargel said that Halderman “discovered evidence that Letterman had created and fostered an environment of workplace sexual misconduct that, under any definition, amounted to actionable sexual harassment."
"I think that celebrity is why we are where we are today," Shargel said to reporters outside the courthouse.
According to the New York Times, Daniel Horwitz, a lawyer for Letterman, blasted back. “Mr. Letterman is not on trial,”Horwitz said. “Any attempt to focus attention on Mr. Letterman, who’s the victim in this case, is an attempt to divert attention away from Mr. Halderman.”
“This morning, I did something I’ve never done in my life,” Letterman said during the taping. “I had to go downtown and testify before a grand jury.”
The notoriously private talk show host then admitted to what was at the center of Halderman’s alleged blackmail attempt: Letterman’s sexual relationships involving female staffers, including Halderman’s one-time girlfriend, Stephanie Birkitt.
“My response to that is, yes I have. Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would,” Letterman said. “I feel like I need to protect these people — I need to certainly protect my family.”
Horwitz said Letterman "is fully prepared to see this case through to the end" and would testify in the case, if necessary.