MANHATTAN (CN) – A longtime CBS employee was charged Friday with trying to extort $2 million from David Letterman, according to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. The talk-show host admitted to a somewhat stunned studio audience during Thursday’s taping that he had a string of affairs with “Late Show” staffers.
Letterman outlined the scheme to millions of viewers who had a hard time telling if the late-night king was serious.
Robert Joel Halderman, the accused extortionist, works as a producer on the true-crime show “48 Hours Mystery.” He has since been suspended.
He threatened to reveal “terrible things” about Letterman’s private life to “make a large chunk of money,” according to the DA. He allegedly left a package with a threatening letter in Letterman’s car at his Manhattan home.
Letterman met the threats head on with full disclosure to his audience.
“What was all this creepy stuff?” he said on the air. “It was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show. My response to that is yes, I have had sex with women on my show.”
“Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would, especially for the women,” Letterman joked.
Halderman allegedly threatened to write a screenplay and a book about the host that would potentially damage his personal life and career. He told Letterman to call him and make a deal, the DA said.
Letterman arranged a meeting with Haldermann after speaking with his attorney.
Two subsequent meetings took place, with Letterman even giving the man a fake $2 million check at the last one, the DA said.
Halderman was arrested Thursday outside the CBS offices on West 57th Street. He was arraigned Friday in state supreme court.
Letterman, who married his girlfriend of 20 years in March and has a 6-year-old son, also told his late-night audience that he testified before a grand jury.
“I was worried for myself, I was worried for my family,” he said. “I felt menaced by this, and I had to tell them all the creepy things that I had done.”
“It’s been a very bizarre experience,” he added. “I felt like I needed to protect these people. I need to protect myself. Hope to protect my job.”
Letterman will not tape a show Friday. Friday’s show was taped Thursday.
This was not Letterman’s first run-in with criminal elements.
In 2005, police uncovered a plot to kidnap his son Harry and hold him ransom for $5 million. A house painter who had worked for Letterman was charged in the conspiracy.
He was also famously stalked for years by a schizophrenic woman, even occasionally mentioning her on the show, though not by name. She committed suicide in 1998. The “Late Show” host publicly expressed sympathy when she died.