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October 5, 2009 3:10 PM

CBS GC Says Letterman Affair Will Be Handled Internally

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: Mar. 9, 6:30 p.m. Joe Halderman has entered a guilty plea.

CLARIFICATION: Oct. 6, 12:37 p.m. This post has been supplemented with information provided by a CBS spokesman, who says that in-house lawyers are only working with legal authorities investigating the conduct of Joe Halderman, not other company employees.

Outside counsel hoping to get the call to handle an investigation by CBS into how an employee in the media giant's news division attempted to extort late night TV star David Letterman might be waiting a long time.

Louis Briskman

CBS general counsel Louis Briskman (right) tells The Am Law Daily that in-house lawyers at the company are working closely with legal authorities investigating the conduct of CBS news producer Robert "Joe" Halderman, who has been charged with attempting to extort $2 million from Letterman.

"We have [lawyers] dedicated to doing news work and people dedicated to entertainment work, so we're on top of this in-house," Briskman says. "We're sufficient in the number of lawyers we have [in New York] and L.A. that we should be able to take care of this."

Briskman says that CBS, a media conglomerate that owns the largest broadcast network in the U.S., has more than 100 in-house lawyers among all its offices worldwide.

When asked what the company's in-house lawyers and compliance officers would be looking at, Briskman declined to comment. A CBS spokesman denied that the network was conducting an internal investigation of employees other than Halderman. (For those wondering why CBS might conduct an investigation at all, see this story by Newsday's Verne Gay.)

Halderman plead not guilty on Friday to charges he sought $2 million from Letterman in exchange for quashing a proposed screenplay and book on the late night talk show host's sexual liaisons with female employees. Halderman was released on $200,000 bail.

The New York County District Attorney's Office stated that prosecutors had recorded conversations of Halderman meeting with Letterman and his lawyer during September relating to the extortion plot.

Representing Letterman throughout the process has been his longtime Los Angeles lawyer James Jackoway of Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein. (The New York Times reports that Jackoway met with Halderman and recorded one of their conversations.)

Halderman's attorney, noted New York criminal defense lawyer Gerald Shargel, claims that the media is rushing to convict his client before learning all the facts.

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Could it be that Letterman is the REAL target of the authorities (not just local, perhaps) and that CBS TV news producer Halderman was playing the role of the "patsy," given the impression he was aiding an official investigation -- and had no criminal intent whatsoever?

See this:

http://groups.poynter.org/members/blog_view.asp?id=160568

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