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.


Don Hill who claimed his innocence – Found guilty faces 18 years in Federal Prison! Government Corruption doesn’t pay…

February 28, 2010

Restitution of $112,500 and 18 years in prison.  That’s $6,250 per year.  Was it worth it?  Clearly this is a message and with that length of time in federal prison Hill will clearly get the picture that life inside the hallowed halls of a prison make a lasting impression and are life changing.  Wonder, as he was “wheeling and dealing” if he ever thought that the outcome would be this dramatic?

Former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, 57, was sentenced to18 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $112,500 in restitution. He must surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on April 27, 2010, to begin serving his sentence. Hill, who was on the witness stand for nearly six days during the June – October 2009 trial, was convicted on seven of nine counts charged, including one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; two counts of bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; one count of conspiracy to commit extortion; one count of extortion by a public official; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“The sentences imposed today on Mr. Hill, his wife and his plan commission appointee hopefully will serve as a powerful reminder to all public officials and those who work with them, that seeking to personally profit by abusing the power given them by the voters can and will result in a long prison sentence,” said U.S. Attorney Jacks. “Public corruption is one of the most insidious crimes confronting our communities today. It contributes to the cynicism we are seeing today from the public who feel as though all politicians are corrupt and the government does not serve the needs of those citizens who can’t pay for access to their elected officials.”

Jacks continued, “The investigation into the actions of these defendants was lengthy and complicated. Many questioned why the investigation was taking so long. Hopefully, the verdict and the sentences handed down today and in the future, will serve as proof of the quality of the work done by the FBI, the IRS and the prosecutors assigned to this case. Throughout the investigation, amid all the questions and criticism, they remained focused on their mission, to thoroughly examine the evidence and to present their findings in a court of law before an impartial jury. The jury’s verdict demonstrates that the facts as revealed by their investigation conclusively showed the guilt of the defendants and was not a matter of interpretation or misunderstanding or selective prosecution. When corrupt politicians are exposed and punished, the entire community reaps the benefits.”

Hill’s wife, Sheila D. Farrington, 45, was sentenced to nine years in prison and ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on the same day as her husband, April 27, 2010. Farrington was convicted at trial on five of six counts charged, including one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; one count of aiding and abetting bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; one count of aiding and abetting extortion by public officials; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

D’Angelo Lee, 43, Hill’s Plan Commission Appointee, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $112,800 in restitution; he is currently in federal custody. Lee was convicted at trial on all seven of seven counts charged, including one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; two counts of bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; one count of conspiracy to commit extortion; one count of extortion by public officials; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Robert E. Casey, Jr., Special in Charge, Dallas FBI, said, “Communities have a right to expect that their elected leaders are ethical, trustworthy, and responsible, only representing the best interests of their constituents. Two of today’s defendants betrayed the trust bestowed on them as public officials. The sentences imposed reflect the gravity of their crimes. The FBI, its law enforcement partners, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to root out such graft in order to ensure that the citizens of Dallas receive honest representation by their elected officials.”

Two other defendants were convicted at trial, Darren L. Reagan, 50, and Rickey Robertson, 43. Both are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lynn on March 1, 2010. Reagan, described as a community activist, and the chairman and CEO of the Black State Employees Association, was convicted on two of four counts charged, including one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and one count of aiding and abetting in extortion by public officials.  Robertson, a local businessman/car dealer was convicted on two of three counts charged, including conspiracy to commit extortion. Robertson was also a principal of RA-MILL.

At that trial, the government presented evidence that beginning in 2004, Hill and his co-defendants entered into an association in which thousands of dollars in bribes were paid by co-defendants Brian L. Potashnik and his wife, Cheryl L. Potashnik, owners of Southwest Housing Development Company, Inc., through sham business contracts to the defendants. The government also presented evidence that Hill and Lee were involved in corrupt solicitation from developers in an effort to gain financial benefit. Brian and Cheryl Potashnik pleaded guilty prior to trial; Brian Potashnik pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits and Cheryl Potashnik pleaded guilty to one count of bribery concerning a state government receiving federal benefits. Both are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lynn on May 7, 2010.

Other sentencing dates are as follows:

On March 19, 2010, Allen McGill, who pleaded guilty in April 2008 to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion; Andrea Spencer who also pleaded guilty in April 2008 to the same offense; Kevin J. Dean, who pleaded guilty in June 2009 to the same offense; and John J. Lewis, who pleaded guilty in March 2009 to the same offense, are scheduled to be sentenced.

On April 2, 2010, Terri Hodge, who pleaded guilty on February 3, 2010, to fraud and false statements on an income tax return, is scheduled to be sentenced.

On May 7, 2010, Jibreel A. Rashad, a.k.a. Vernon Cooks, Jr., who was convicted on February 10, 2010, following a one-week trial, of conspiracy to commit extortion, is scheduled to be sentenced.

A trial date has not been set for the charges pending against Ronald W. Slovacek. Last week the government filed a motion requesting that some of the counts be dismissed and indicating its intention to proceed to trial on only three counts: one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; one count of bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.