The allegation that Halderman was behind the extortion attempt was the talk Friday of the shocked CBS newsroom, where employees puzzled over the news.
"Everybody is stunned and very sad," one of Halderman's colleagues said.
Letterman's indiscretions appear to have come to Halderman's attention through his relationship with a former assistant to the comic, 34-year-old Stephanie Birkitt, who also worked as an associate producer at "48 Hours." According to voter registration records, Birkitt was residing at Halderman's home in Norwalk, Conn., as recently as last fall. TMZ reported that Halderman was in possession of diaries and correspondence belonging to Birkitt detailing a relationship she had with Letterman.
In the letter left in Letterman's car, Halderman said he needed to "make a large chunk of money" and included a one-page screenplay treatment describing how the "Late Show" host would have a "ruined reputation" after he exposed details of the comic's private life, prosecutors said. He allegedly demanded that Letterman call him by 8 a.m. to strike a deal.
Instead, the comic called his attorney, who met with Halderman on Sept. 15. At that time, the CBS producer allegedly demanded $2 million to keep quiet. In coordination with the Manhattan district attorney's office, the attorney held two more meetings with Halderman at the Jumeirah Essex House, a posh New York hotel, and secretly taped his demands, authorities said.
After testifying before the grand jury Thursday, Letterman described the experience for his audience.
"This whole thing has been quite scary," he said. "I was worried for myself, I was worried for my family. I felt menaced by this."
Letterman may not have offered a politician's apology for his behavior, but he handled the matter right out of a political playbook, said Dan Schnur, director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and a veteran political strategist.
"By bringing up the information himself rather than letting it come out from other sources and being forced to react to it, he did a lot to protect himself," Schnur said.