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Robert Joel Halderman -- the alleged Letterman extortionist
Who is Robert Joel Halderman?You are about to hear a great deal about this man in the next few hours -- the man police and now, CBS -- have identified as the Letterman extortionist. But here's what I have learned so far. Until Thursday, he was a well-regarded veteran producer at "48 Hours" whose credits include work on the Winter Olympics, and producer or segment producer for a number of CBS and Showtime documentaries, including 2006's very well-reviewed "Three Days in September."
He lives in Norwalk -- an old seaport and factory town on Connecticut's 95 -- off the busy Boston Post Road. He has also worked for CBS for a number of years in a job that demands an unusual degree of trust from the employer -- as a reporter on sensitive and difficult subjects, both for the news mag and for independent documentaries.
And here's more: Halderman has been a CBS News producer for decades, and worked on the old morning show, later "Evening News with Dan Rather," and was shipped to London where he reported on various hotspots from around the world. He later came back stateside; was married; now divorced.
Then this: He was well-liked by some colleagues. Per someone who knows him: "He was just a nice guy...I can't believe he was involved in something like this."
And here's much more: Per sources: He was a very successful breaking news producer, and well-liked by most people he worked with - "very driven, very smart," in the words of one. He was a hotdog - a guy who could be dropped into a war zone and navigate the dangers, get the facts, and get the story together. It's an essential skill that the person who can do it well is held in high esteem at any of the networks. It is also a dangerous job, and Halderman once spoke of being detained in Bosnia, and a translator late told him that the soldiers debated whether to "kill the journalists." Halderman - expected to be arrainged this morning - won many awards for his reporting at CBS.
And this: He had been through a messy divorce - children invovled - and had been dating a woman who had worked at "48 Hours." Her name's been in the press elsewhere, but I don't want to use it here - simply because it's not been confirmed. But if it is confirmed, longtime viewers will recognize her immediately - she was an on-air regular some years back.
A source said, she had worked with Letterman, recently passed the New York Bar, and had broken off her affair with Halderman.
Said another source, "Everyone who knows him is just stunned...."
Meanwhile, another source tells me this: "Joe was a great and is a great daddy, I know he had a lot of pressures at home."It had to do with custody of his youngest child. It sounded quite serious, he was plainly off kilter about it. [He had a reported $6,800 per month in child support payments.] "He was based in London in very interesting times in the region. He was the guy who was confidently sent places and when the Soviet Union I remember he went to Vilnius where he met his next wife. it was volatile, we went over to visit them, when our kids were young, he threw himself one hundred percent into the family stuff,, and particularly hard when you’re a TV fireman but he took pains to be a good daddy. He worked at it very very hard, and he’s very close to his kids. The breakup of this last marriage, was hoard on him in that regard, and tough on the family be... "There used to be this sort of city news video service [at CBS] and that's how Joe started, for CNN a little bit and we used to call him the video kid…he was one of these guys who did video – that was their language; it wasn’t sentences or narratives it wasn’t plot; it was picture. He was and still is great at that – and he was a great fireman. "He worked on many of the big stories and he used to bring a big book with him; he knew his way in and out of the mountain passes in Bosnia, and knew the various check points, and knew where there would be a two and half hour wait. And he’d sit in his CBS rented vehicle and wait…He was a guy you counted on getting the [story.] And then he’d fly back to London , and take the kids out the playground or the park. "Outside of his family and golf and working at CBS, that was it. "
Halderman produced and directed "Three Days" -- narrated by Julia Roberts -- about the September 1, 2004 assault by Chechan terrorists on a school in Beslan where 1,200 parents and teachers were held hostage.
2004, hooded Chechen terrorists with machine guns, hand grenades, and bombs seized School Number One and held 1,200 children, parents, and teachers hostage until all
hell broke loose—there are dozens of defining moments and obscene ironies, as if, after the worst possible news, a sinister significance attached to every ordinary
object, even dolls and shoes. But it’s children eating flowers that I can’t get out of my mind. Given that the film Julia Roberts narrates is 'Three Days in September,' and she’s currently starring in 'Three Days of Rain,' you might think the Showtime documentary is a
peek at her Broadway debut. It’s not—nor is it a sequel to the 1992 Russian film 'Three Days in August.' Nor a remake of 'Three Days of the Condor.' Nor a preview of the forthcoming 'Three Days in Dublin,' nor an abridgment of 'Four Days in November' or 'Four Days in July.' Momentous dates, like good things and bad news, apparently come in
threes—save for the most famous historical span, at least in Russia: Ten Days That Shook the World.Outside, the temperature rose to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside, in the gym where the children were caged, a gym where bombs were wired to basketball backboards, it was steam-bath stifling. They were not allowed food, water,
or permission to use the bathroom. So they ate the flowers and drank their urine. Meanwhile, using a video camera confiscated from a parent who had hoped to record his child’s first day of school, terrorists shot candid footage of themselves, in mufti and masks, strutting, posing, and praying. So accustomed do we become to this awful intimacy that when the two female terrorists, who apparently hadn’t bargained for murdering children, blow themselves up, we are almost surprised that we don’t see it. We see everything else, including a severed leg. After the only face-to-face negotiation that occurred before the bloodbath, nursing babies were removed from the site, and their mothers with them. Of course, these mothers were there to begin with because they had older children in the school. So they had to decide whether to remain with one child or escort the other out. Zalina Zandarova explains how she walked away with her 2-year-old but left her 6-year-old behind. Even so, she’s luckier than Sergei Urmanov, an engineer right out of Dostoyevsky, who survived the siege but lost his wife, daughter, sister, and three nieces. We also get to know Elena Kosomova, the language teacher, assistant principal, hostage, and mother of a hostage. In a Hollywood movie she could be played by Michelle Pfeiffer, though Kosomova’s type of clouded beauty cost her way too much.
On the third day, something exploded in the gym, nobody knows what or why, after which came a popping, which galvanized the trigger-happy. For ten hours, hoodies in
the school exchanged berserk fire with tanks, snipers, Russian Army special forces, and local militia in shorts and flip-flops, while bloody children fell out windows.
The body count was 331 hostages, 176 of them children. A figure of 500 is given for the wounded. But Beslan’s entire population, 35,000, should be counted as wounded.
The dead kids were in the lower grades. Before school, they lined up according to age group, the youngest at the head of the line, older ones nearer the gate through
which they escaped at the time of attack. Later, there is a memorial consisting entirely of bottles of water, to quench the thirst of the slain.
children’s keepsakes, town scenes, flora, fauna, and weather, and subsequent interviews of many of the principals, including the hostage negotiator, a sniper, and a photographer so traumatized by what he saw that he stopped taking pictures. It’s all crosscut with gunfire and a children’s choir, so that we are almost slapped back and forth in terrible time. Can you imagine? Grown men actually plotted in advance to seize a school, lock small children into the gym, and wire bombs to the basketball backboards? "