A CBS News producer charged with trying to extort $2 million from David Letterman in a plot that prompted the late-night comedian to admit to sexual relationships with employees was desperate and deep in debt, prosecutors said.
Robert (Joe) Halderman, 51, is accused of demanding the lump sum in exchange for not releasing information that would ruin Letterman's reputation. Letterman told millions of viewers on his show Thursday the threat concerned sexual liaisons with women who work for him.
Assistant District Attorney Judy Salwen told the judge Halderman, a producer for "48 Hours," was in debt, but did not elaborate.
"The evidence is compelling," she said. "It shows the defendant is desperate, and he is capable of doing anything."
Halderman earned about $214,000 in 2007. He was ordered in 2007 to pay his ex-wife $6,800 per month in child and spousal support until May 2011, when the payments will be reduced to $5,966 until May 2014, according to papers filed in Stamford Superior Court.
He had asked for a reduction to $2,039 per month because his ex-wife, Patty Montet, was sharing a house in New Canaan with a man. But Montet argued — and the judge agreed — that her living arrangement was for convenience and not romantic. Montet also claimed Halderman was getting $1,500 a month from Stephanie Birkitt, 34, an ex-Letterman staffer who later lived with Halderman, the New York Post reported.
"Mr. Halderman claims he is struggling financially, but it is difficult to see what, other than mismanagement and extravagant spending, is the reason for this," Montet's attorneys said in the court file. "His is a world of golf trips, vacations, increasing 401k assets, comprehensive benefits, security in employment, earnings as an award-winning producer for CBS, and home ownership."
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau announced Halderman's indictment Friday. Halderman is charged with one count of attempted grand larceny. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison. He was released after posting $200,000 bail.
According to Morgenthau, an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's office revealed that Halderman waited outside of Letterman's home at 6 a.m. on Sept. 9 to deliver a package of embarrassing e-mails and photographic proof of the affairs to the comedian inside his limousine. Letterman said Halderman threatened to release a screenplay that would ruin his reputation.
According to authorities, Halderman wrote that he needed "to make a large chunk of money" and said that Letterman's world would "collapse around him" if the damaging information about him were made public.
An unidentified attorney for Letterman subsequently took the evidence to the prosecutor's office, which set up an undercover sting at a hotel. Three additional meetings took place, which were recorded by the attorney under the guidance of New York police detectives. On Sept. 30, Halderman was presented with a phony check for $2 million, which he deposited in his bank account.
Halderman's lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said the producer worked at CBS for 27 years and had no prior criminal record. He described him as an involved father who coached soccer, baseball and football and has two children, ages 11 and 18.
Halderman's fellow employees expressed surprise at the veteran producer's arrest Thursday.
"Everyone there has worked with him," CBS staffers told FOXNews.com of Halderman. "He’s a big deal there. He’s directed news specials that the CBS documentary team has produced, 9/11 stuff, Olympics, just about every big story."
Sources tell FOXNews.com that the nature of Halderman’s assignments would likely have given him access to loads of sensitive information over the years.
Phone calls to Halderman were not returned Friday.
Letterman said that "this whole thing has been quite scary." But he mixed in jokes while outlining what had happened to him, seeming to confuse a laughing audience at Thursday's taping about whether the story was true.
Letterman won't be taping a show Friday. Friday night's show was taped Thursday.
Alicia Maxey Greene, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney's office, declined to comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.