Judge refuses to dismiss David Letterman extortion case

A judge has refused to throw out the criminal case against a TV producer who is accused of trying to blackmail late-night TV host David Letterman.

New York judge Charles Solomon ruled against Robert 'Joe' Halderman's bid to get his attempted grand larceny case dismissed.

Prosecutors say Halderman demanded US$2 million to keep quiet about the Late Show host's affairs with staffers. Halderman says he was just offering Letterman a chance to buy - and keep private - a thinly veiled screenplay about his life.

Whether Halderman's conduct was blackmail or business is "best left for a trial jury to decide," Solomon wrote.

The case spurred the late-night icon to tell viewers in October that he had slept with women who worked for him.

The 52-year-old Halderman, a producer for CBS' 48 Hours Mystery, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He and his lawyer declined to comment outside court.

Prosecutors say the financially strapped Halderman threatened to ruin Letterman's reputation with information he had gleaned from his then-girlfriend's diary. It described her relationship with Letterman, her boss, authorities said.

In a secretly taped conversation with Letterman's attorney, Halderman offered to sell a screenplay and said that in return he would pledge to not take his information public, prosecutors said. Letterman's lawyer ultimately gave Halderman a phony US$2 million check. The producer was arrested after depositing it.

Halderman's lawyer has said the transaction was just commerce, not a crime.

CBS has declined to discuss Halderman's status since his arrest.