The case involving the (alleged) extortion of David Letterman appeared in the news again because Joe Halderman’s attorney appeared in a court with a unique perspective on the facts in the case.
As you probably remember, Joe Halderman is accused of threatening to release information about Dave’s sexual affairs with NBC staffers unless Letterman handed over 2 million dollars. This caused involvement by the police, an on-air confession by Dave, and perhaps a divorce trial in Letterman’s future.
Halderman, however, has now stated that this wasn’t an attempt at extortion at all. He was simply offering to sell Dave a movie script he was developing about Letterman’s sexual behavior with the staff. It was just a simple business transaction, and he was only trying to give Dave first crack at owning the rights to the script. A very charitable offer!
Of course, this doesn’t explain why he would approach Dave at 6 am with the message to the effect of “buy this or else”. Halderman claims this is how business is done.
What we are witnessing here is Halderman’s attorney using any means necessary to avoid a serious criminal conviction. What he’s done is twisted the facts into what he hopes is a story just plausible enough that at least one juror will have a reasonable doubt that it might be true.
Some lawyers say that they’ll argue anything that doesn’t turn their face purple from embarrassment. This is called the “purple face” test. While your attorney has an ethical duty to be candid with the judge and jury, you expect him to look at the facts from every possible angle and perhaps use a little creativity to formulate a realistic and favorable perspective to present to the judge or jury.
Halderman has found an attorney with a face that doesn’t turn purple easily. Apparently it wasn’t easy, seeing that he needed to bring an attorney from California to New York to represent him before the court. I have to admit, I don’t know that I could have told the judge that story with a straight face.
When hiring a lawyer, you should find someone who is willing to represent you passionately, enthusiastically, and creatively. However, beware of someone who is willing to present absurd and ridiculous versions of the facts to the judge. If the lawyer you’re meeting with is making promises that sound too good to be true, or is promising results that sound odd or fantastic, get a second opinion before you find yourself feeding nonsense to a judge.
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