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Accused Letterman extortionist innocent: attorney

 Robert Joel Halderman (2nd L) listens during his arraignment in New York Supreme Court October 2, 2009. REUTERS/New York Post/Pool - Reuters
Robert Joel Halderman (2nd L) listens during his arraignment in New York Supreme Court October 2, 2009. REUTERS/New York Post/Pool
— image credit: Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian David Letterman did not tell the whole story when he described himself as the victim of a $2 million extortion plot by a TV news producer, an attorney for the producer said on Monday.

In interviews with U.S. network news shows, attorney Gerald Shargel, who is representing Robert "Joe" Halderman, said his client is innocent and the accusations against him do not make sense.

"David Letterman didn't give his (Halderman's) side of the story, David Letterman gave what he wanted the public to know," Shargel said on NBC's "Today" show.

"He wanted to get out ahead of the story, and that's exactly what he did," Shargel said of Letterman.

Shargel said it was unlikely that Halderman would have sought to extort Letterman by taking a $2 million check, because that is not how extortionists normally operate.

"In the history of extortions, I don't believe there has ever been a case where someone was paid by check," Shargel told ABC's "Good Morning America."

On Thursday night, Letterman told audiences on his popular late-night TV talk program, "Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS, that he had been a victim in the extortion plot by a man who threatened to write a screenplay or book about "all the terrible stuff" Letterman had done.

The talk show host then admitted to having had sexual affairs with women on his program's staff.

A representative for Letterman did not return phone calls seeking comment on Shargel's statement.

Halderman was arrested. He was charged on Friday in New York with attempted grand larceny in the blackmail scheme. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Shargel declined to detail what may be his client's defense, saying that he was still looking into the case. He said Halderman, veteran journalist and producer on CBS news program "48 Hours," has reported on crime stories for years and would likely know how to avoid ways to get caught.

"Joe Halderman was at CBS for 27 years," Shargel told "Good Morning America."

"He knows all about cops and wiretaps. And to suggest that he was trapped in an extortion plot is preposterous," Shargel said.

Court documents show that Halderman owed an ex-wife $6,800 a month in child and spousal support, and authorities have said that he is deep in debt.

Shargel said he looked forward to questioning Letterman on the witness stand.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Mohammad Zargham)

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