In an amazing publicity stunt — and that is what it was — the attorney for the alleged David Letterman extortionist suggested in a court that there is little difference between his client, Joe Halderman, and alleged Tiger Woods mistress Rachel Uchitel. (He also threw attorney Gloria Allred and even Woods’s wife under the bus.)
It has been reported that Woods paid Uchitel to keep quiet. And so Attorney Gerald Shargel wrote that, like Uchitel, Halderman just had valuable information he was willing to sell. And if Letterman did not purchase it, Halderman would, “move on and sell his story to someone else.”
First, the similarities. Both had information about a celebrity for which several media outlets would have paid top dollar. And both were completely within their rights to sell that information.
If Rachel Uchitel (and her attorney Gloria Allred) called up Tiger and demanded payment or they would drive straight to the offices of US Weekly that could, in fact, be blackmail.
But there are some major differences, and those differences make Halderman’s argument nothing more than something fun for us to talk about.
First, it is possible that Woods, fearing she was heading to the microphones, reached out to Uchitel. No one is ever going to be convicted of extortion if the “victim” makes the first move.
The most important point, however, is that Tiger “the victim” did not call the police. Letterman did.
Whether we think they should or not, police cannot go after every crime committed, and, much of the time, it is a waste of everyone’s money if the victims will not cooperate. Woods made it clear from the beginning of his personal debacle that he was not going to talk to police. And that makes the chances of him taking the stand to detail everything he did with Uchitel and everyone else precisely nil.
We’ve said it a million times — blackmail is a weird crime, and it is difficult to articulate why what looks like a commercial transaction here is extortion there. But Letterman felt like he was a victim and went to the police. Woods didn’t.
Tough break for Halderman.
Shargel seems to be attempting to say that blackmail should not be a crime. Maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe in his client’s case, it wasn’t. We’ll see.
But invoking the Rachel Uchitel defence isn’t going to get him there. Unless “there” is the papers. In which case, well played.
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