3 Oct 2009

TV man charged over alleged Letterman blackmail plot

6:25 pm on 3 October 2009

A man has been charged over an alleged plot to blackmail chat show host David Letterman over sexual relationships he had with female staff members.

CBS employee Robert "Joe" Halderman, was arrested after an undercover sting operation, New York authorities said.

Letterman confessed during a recording of his show, broadcast by CBS, that he had had sex with female colleagues.

He said a man had threatened to expose the relationships unless a payment of $US2m was made.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said Mr Halderman, a producer for the real-life crime show 48 Hours, had been arrested on Thursday.

He was indicted on one count of first-degree grand larceny, an offence punishable by a prison term of five to 15 years, Mr Morgenthau said.

"Our concern here is extortion and that's what we're focusing on."

Letterman told the studio audience of his Late Show on Thursday that he was first approached by the alleged blackmailer three weeks ago.

He said he had got in his car early one morning to find a package with a letter containing proof of the "terrible things" he was said to have done.

The letter, he said, was from a man who threatened to write a book and screenplay about the veteran broadcaster unless he was given money.

"I have had sex with women who work on this show," Letterman admitted, causing some confusion among audience members who appeared unsure whether he was delivering a comedy line.

On the advice of his lawyer, Letterman said, he had contacted prosecutors at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

"This morning I did something I've never done in my life," said the broadcaster on Thursday. "I had to go downtown and testify before a grand jury."

In his testimony he acknowledged he had conducted sexual relationships with members of his staff.

"I had to tell them all of the creepy things that I had done," he said.

He did not say when the relationships took place or how long they lasted.

Letterman, 62, married long-term girlfriend Regina Lasko in March. They have a six-year-old son.

Last week Letterman hosted the Prime Minister John Key on his show, which has a daily audience of three to four million.

Mr Key gave a top 10 reasons to visit New Zealand including "New Zealand is a convenient 20-hour flight away" and "if you go in the next 30 days I'll pick you up at the airport personally".