The attorney for the accused Letterman extortionist made the rounds today, providing soundbites but not a lot of detail.
Gerald Shargel told The New York Times Media Decoder blog that he has “evidence” of sexual harassment, which he will “shar[e] in the courtroom.”
Shargel is of course smart to get in front of the cameras and defend his client, especially when the district attorney’s side is dominating the news. But asserting he has evidence of sexual harassment only fuels the gossip fire – it does nothing to explain his client’s actions or provide any defence. The alleged bad behaviour of the target for extortion is not a defence to extortion – without the initial bad behaviour an extortion crime would seldom exist.
As the NYT points out, the evidence, if it exists, may be admissible in court.
NYT: “I’m allowed to introduce evidence that’s relevant to my client’s state of mind,” Mr. Shargel said.
Some criminal lawyers said Monday that issue would likely be fought over before a trial, and a judge could rule the specifics of Mr. Letterman’s behaviour irrelevant to the charge of extortion. But the lawyers also said that the risk that such details could be brought out in court might be enough to compel Mr. Letterman to ask the district attorney to look for ways to avoid a trial.
“It could foreseeably be admissible,” said Gerald Lefcourt, a defence attorney with experience with both criminal and celebrity cases. He said the court could decide to hear the defendant’s explanation that he intended to write a true story in a screenplay and went to Mr. Letterman to see if he would pay to avoid that.
However, even if admissible, his state of mind will matter little outside of an insanity defence.
It’s important to note, again, that no one has officially accused Letterman of sexual harassment. Instead, Shargel seems to be attempting to shift the focus off his client and on to Letterman, which, until he’s ready to provide detail, is all that he can do.
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