Why Letterman's extortionist needs an agent, not a lawyer

« Super Bowl commercial lawsuits keep coming | Main | Hollywood Docket Top 5: 'Hurt Locker' tops pirate list; 'Couples Retreat' model sues; Seinfeld slander sequel? »

Why Letterman's extortionist needs an agent, not a lawyer

Fri Mar 12, 2010 @ 03:03PM PST

Today we're starting a new weekly feature called Crime Time, which will delve deeper into the intersection of showbiz and the criminal courts than we typically go on this blog. For that we've reached out to a new contributor, Russell Wetanson, an entertainment reporter and lawyer who can been seen on TV Guide Network, HLN and E!. A big welcome to Russell.    

By Russell Wetanson

I hate to admit it, but a criminal may need an agent more than he needs a lawyer these days. Before you berate me for saying so, consider the supporting evidence that surfaced this week.

Six months ago, David Letterman announced that he (a) had engaged in sexual activity with women in his office and (b) was the victim of an extortion -- or, better yet, a “sextortion” -- plot. The New York City District Attorney’s office quickly filed charges for first-degree attempted grand larceny against Robert “Joe” Halderman, a television producer who was living with and romantically linked to one of the alleged Letterman liaisons.

Lettermanhalderman Halderman’s alleged conduct included: (1) personally delivering a package containing a television show “treatment” along with embarrassing e-mails and photos to the talk show host's home; (2) stating in writing that Letterman’s “world is about to collapse around him” and would lead to a “ruined reputation”; and (3) negotiating with Letterman’s lawyer to receive a $2 million paycheck in exchange for the so-called treatment for a television show about Letterman’s sexual affairs and, of course, for not disclosing said information.  

In January, Halderman lawyered-up with
Gerald Shargel and argued that the court should dismiss the case based on the so-called “Tiger Woods” defense. Namely, if Gloria Allred's clients -- Tiger’s alleged mistresses -- are permitted to negotiate their silence in exchange for a monetary payout, then Halderman’s conduct should be declared lawful and the criminal case should be dismissed.

Before the court entertained a hearing on the motion to dismiss, Halderman pleaded guilty this week to one count of attempted grand larceny in the second degree and was sentenced to six months in jail, five years probation and 1,000 hours of community service.  And, as part of his probation terms, he is not allowed to profit in any way from the sextortion plot.

For a meager 10% agency commission, Halderman might have avoided all of this legal nonsense. 

If he really wanted to earn some money, he should have entered the scripted television market with a treatment about a philandering late-night talk show host. He and his agent could have pitched the show around town and, quite possibly, set up a deal. Think about it -- they’d pitch it as the modern, edgier "Gary Shandling Show." Sure, he might have found himself sued for defamation and invasion of privacy, but the publicity from those claims might have rocketed the show into success.  

Not convinced?  Well, consider the cases of DMX and Natalie Mejia.  

DMX, a former rapper, has been arrested numerous times in multiple states and most recently served a jail sentence in Arizona last year on charges of drug possession and animal cruelty.  On Wednesday, he landed in jail again for allegedly violating his probation by using drugs. He was booked on five counts of probation violations, and the judge is holding him without bail until next week.

Mejia, a former contestant on "Girlicious," the Pussycat Dolls' CW reality series, was arrested Thursday for allegedly carrying more than a dozen bags of cocaine in her purse. She was charged with one felony count of drug possession and is expected in court on April 15 for her arraignment.

Each of these two could have used an agent. One call to Dr. Drew could have landed them gigs on VH1's "Celebrity Rehab" and potentially saved them from jail (or at least from themselves).

Still not convinced that an agent can help?  Then you must already have an agent.

Wetanson,russell Got a Crime Time question or comment? Reach Russell Wetanson at [email protected], check out his blog Popsquire and follow him at twitter.com/popsquire.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Why Letterman's extortionist needs an agent, not a lawyer:

The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

The Hollywood Reporter
Contact: Patrice Atiee at 323.525.2014 or [email protected]

The Hollywood Reporter is Your Complete Film Resource

The columnists and bloggers who write for The Hollywood Reporter have their collective finger on the pulse of the boxoffice. Martin Grove and the other THR columnists deliver their thoughts on the film industry in an uncompromised style. Subscribe to THR today and get the latest views from these film experts and get the latest movie reviews as well.