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

March 9, 2010

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.


President Bush: Government Bailout Necessary…!

September 24, 2008

…but as the President speaks and says that “our entire economy is in danger” – unless you pass my $700 billion bailout proposal – the question I ask is – is it really $700 billion or will it (in the end) be more like 3 Trillion?

According to CBS News: Speaking in dire terms, President Bush on Wednesday warned Americans and lawmakers reluctant to pass a historic financial rescue plan that failing to act fast risks wiping out retirement savings, rising foreclosures, lost jobs, closed business and “a long and painful recession.”

Now by no stretch of the imagination am I making light of one of the most serious financial issues of our time, but I keep hearing Forrest Gump in my head saying, “Now I know I’m not a smart man, but…”  Well the “but” is when has a government financial projection ever been what they projected it will be – ever?

Bush is right in that we may not only be facing a recession but the possibility of a full fledged depression is not that unlikely.

He spoke just after inviting Democrat Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, one of whom will inherit the mess in four months, and key congressional leaders to an extraordinary White House meeting Thursday afternoon to hammer out a compromise.

“Without immediate action by Congress, American could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold,” Mr. Bush said in a prime-time address from the White House East Room that he hoped would help rescue his tough-sell bailout package.

The question remains – is the actions that are proposed too little too late.  Every presentation on ethics I make has one central theme – EVERY CHOICE HAS A CONSEQUENCE.  We, as a country, relished in the glow of a robust economy balanced on the back of an illusion.  We had leadership from both parties and substantial financial institutions who seemed to be more concerned about growing a false economy than taking the measures that all agree today would have made sounder financial sense.

As an example – today I had a conversation with a Realtor (as I am in the housing market as I write this).   He suggested that mortgage rates would never be lower and that after the bailout – the housing market pricing would stabilize hence home prices are at their bottom.  I must admit (while he may be right – guess there is always that possibility) I had to laugh.  Now, I don’t know about the interest rates, but this I believe – housing prices will continue to slide for two very clear reasons:

(1) the number of people who can qualify for a mortgage is shrinking even as we speak.  Fewer people are finding increases in their income and many should not have qualified in the first place – hence a smaller population of potential buyers.

(2) an over abundance of inventory.  Now I just sold my home in Texas within three days after it was listed for above asking price.  For that I am thankful to God and feel blessed.  But, as I moved to a different part of our country I found that it is a buyers market.  More homes than buyers makes that true.  The other part that I have found is builders and Realtors are having a difficult time adjusting their thinking about pricing – they still think it is worth what they thought it was.  Yet, I’ve seen homes on the market for now over 600 days with no purchase prospect in sight.

But – the realtor told me that we have to pass this “bailout” otherwise, we will face a disaster.  Afterall, he stated, “our economy is built on the ability to borrow against our house.  If you need to buy something new or put a kid through college – you use the equity in your home as a second mortgage to pay for it.  Otherwise, how else would you get the money?”  He made that statement and ask that question with sincerity.  What was amazing was – he could not conceive of another way to meet financial obligations.

Perhaps we have forgotten sound financial principles.  As a business ethics speaker, I admit I forgot those principles in my past and the price that I paid was significant.  We should pray that the bailout works – for the cost of failure will be much higher than most of us would care to dream.

QUESTION: Do you support the “bailout” and why?