Robert “Joe” Halderman pleads guilty to David Letterman extortion! Why did he do it?

Well…this story is all over the news so one might ask what can a simple blog add that has not been stated in, almost, every other media outlet reporting today?

Answer: Perhaps motive!

The real question is – how can a person, like Joe Halderman, a former CBS News producer make such a choice that has the possible implication of prison?  But first, let’s see what is being said in the new reports:

CNN states:

Robert “Joe” Halderman, the former CBS News producer accused of trying to blackmail comedian David Letterman, agreed Tuesday to plead guilty to grand larceny in the second degree in exchange for six months in jail, five years probation and 1,000 hours of community service.

In a separate statement, the former “48 Hours” producer admitted that he tried to extort $2 million from Letterman to keep quiet about the “Late Show” host’s sexual affairs.

“On the morning of September 9, 2009, I gave a sealed envelope to Mr. Letterman’s driver as he waited outside of Mr. Letterman’s Manhattan home,” Halderman said in the statement, called an allocution. “I asked the driver to give the envelope marked ‘Privileged and Confidential’ to Mr. Letterman.

“The envelope contained a number of documents, including a document I created entitled ‘Treatment for a Screenplay.’ This so-called treatment was just a thinly veiled threat to ruin Mr. Letterman if he did not pay me a lot of money.

“Later that month, on three different occasions I met with Mr. Letterman’s lawyer, Jim Jackoway, to work out the details of the extortion. On October 1, 2009, I deposited a check for $2 million that Mr. Jackoway gave me.

“I knew throughout this time that I was not engaged in a legitimate business transaction with Mr. Letterman and that what I was doing was against New York law. I understand that my attempt to extort $2 million from Mr. Letterman violated his and his family’s privacy. I promise to respect their privacy in the future.”

Then-District Attorney Morgenthau said Letterman gave Halderman a $2 million check in October and Halderman deposited the money into a Connecticut bank account the day before he was arrested.

So does the above answer the question – WHY?

Not really.  Rather, the next to the last paragraph in the CNN news report gives us the clue.

Halderman closed his statement by expressing “great remorse” and apologizing to Letterman and his family and to the family of Stephanie Birkitt, one of the women Halderman said had engaged in a sexual relationship with Letterman. Birkitt was an assistant to the talk show host and a former live-in girlfriend of Halderman.

SO TO THE QUESTION OF WHY?

First, when a crime like this is committed, typically there are three components that come together to create the “perfect storm.”  NEED – OPPORTUNITY and  RATIONALIZATION.   Let’s explore these and see if we can find out where Joe came from when he concocted this hairbrained idea.

First, OPPORTUNITY is easy.  Few people have the connectivity to David Letterman to pull this off.  Frankly, I can’t imagine many who read this thinking that they would even know how to get close enough to Letterman to pull of such a stunt.  So the OPPORTUNITY portion was primarily effected because Halderman was a “former” CBS News producer.

Second, NEED.  That might be a bit more complicated.  It was reported that one of the ladies that Halderman accused Letterman of having sexual relations with was Stephanie Birkett who happened to be a live-in girlfriend of Halderman in the past.  Perhaps (just speculation) Halderman held some ill intent toward Birkett and Letterman – a man’s scorn?  Maybe…  Or, as reported here, Halderman was debt ridden and desperate.    The report states in part:

“I also tried very hard to convince my ex-wife to not go, or to at least not go so far.”

Halderman complained his ex, Patty Montet, “was not interested in my opinion and is determined to make this move.”

Halderman’s daughter decided to stay with him in Norwalk, Conn. But his romance with Stephanie Birkitt, one of Letterman’s sidekicks on the “Late Show,” soured, sources said.

“It was devastating for him having his son move away with his ex-wife. … He loved his kid like I’ve never seen a father love his child,” said Jeff Dyment, 43, who used to coach a youth soccer team with Halderman.

It was in the midst of that emotional maelstrom that Halderman – perhaps inspired by the true crime stories he produced for a living – tried to shake down Letterman by threatening to reveal the comedian’s numerous affairs with female staffers, prosecutors charged Friday.

Emotion is a strong driver for NEED.  Bernie Madoff illustrated that when he effected the largest Ponzi scheme in history.  His need:  the need to be right!

Lastly, RATIONALIZATION.  If you were to ask anyone who effected a crime (long before they did it), would it be right to extort or blackmail someone?  Well, you and I both know that the answer that Mr. Halderman would have given would be a resounding – NO.  Yet, in the midst of emotional turmoil with high NEED and OPPORTUNITY – anyone (an I mean ANYONE) can rationalize bad behavior.

The RATIONALIZATION key is the part that allows a good person to make bad choices and, as I say to every group I speak to, EVERY CHOICE HAS A CONSEQUENCE.

Perhaps Mr. Halderman can learn from his past misjudgements and focus on a more effective way to be a father, person and business associate.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME.

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3 Responses to Robert “Joe” Halderman pleads guilty to David Letterman extortion! Why did he do it?

  1. Jeff Norman says:

    What can a simple blog add that hasn’t already been stated? What’s missing is analysis that explains why or why not Halderman’s behavior was criminal. Everybody says it was, but nobody has actually addressed his defense. He claimed he was just selling a story. What about that claim?

    It seems to me that the purpose of blackmail laws is not to prevent people from conducting legitimate business, and Halderman’s proposal was legitimate because his story about Letterman was truly marketable, and it’s not a crime to offer the protagonist of a story the chance to buy it.

    So where’s the crime?

  2. Jeff…now that’s about the dumbest thing I’ve heard. If Joe went to the National Enquirer and sold the story that would be closer to legitimate business, but to go to Letterman and ask for money not to publish the “story” is, by definition, extortion.

    What world do you live in where it isn’t – Pandora?

  3. Jeff Norman says:

    Chuck, the man who expressed the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard hereby informs you it’s not dumb at all to base one’s judgment of Halderman’s alleged criminality on what the defendant actually said and wrote in his communications with Letterman and Letterman’s lawyer.

    If you think merely communicating with Letterman or his rep constitutes extortion, that would be about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

    If you agree it matters WHAT was communicated, I warmly invite you to identify which of Halderman’s words were extortionate, and explain how what he said differs from language that would constitute a lawful offer to sell a biographical treatment to the story’s protagonist.

    So far you’ve only announced your conclusion. What is the reasoning that supports it?

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