03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

David Letterman Blackmailed Again?

In an obvious and blatant attempt to intimidate the victim, the lawyer for Joel Halderman, the person who allegedly blackmailed David Letterman, "asserted that he would put forward evidence that Mr. Letterman had engaged in sexual harassment of his staff members." Mr. Shargel justified his threats by asserting that such evidence would be relevant to his client's state of mind. Unless he is going to contend that somehow the alleged extortion attempt was justified, it is difficult to envision how such evidence would be admissible.

But even if by some stretch sexual harassment (as opposed to sexual conduct) should become relevant, in my opinion, the public statements were aimed at threatening the victim rather than vindicating the defendant. I am a firm believer in the presumption of innocence and the rights of those charged with crimes, but I believe, in this instance counsel has crossed the line. To me, these veiled accusations are akin to threatening a rape victim with revelations about her sexual past in order to discourage prosecution.

On prior occasions, I have severely criticized prosecutors for what I deemed to be inappropriate statements during press conferences regarding the guilt of the person being charged -- the Duke rape case being the clearest example. Defense counsel are not under the same strictures as prosecutors, but they should not be totally freed from the restraints of fairness and decency.

The purpose of the public statements may well be to serve the interests of the client -- the first duty of defense counsel. The motive to discourage a trial and possibly obtain a satisfactory plea bargain is an acceptable goal. But it seems to me that the threat to expose Mr. Letterman's alleged "sexual harassment" in the hope of gaining some benefit is not much different than demanding money from him.