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Is Al Franken Hiding From the Media?

James Hirsen By Wednesday, 07 October 2009 03:31 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Bad News for Michael Jackson's Doctor
2. Is Al Franken Hiding From the Media?
3. Michael Moore's Movie Fails to Attract Capital
4. How a CBS Producer Became a Criminal Defendant
5. ‘Screenplay’ Defense for Accused Blackmailer of Letterman?


1. Bad News Piles Up for Michael Jackson's Doctor

It now has been reported that the deadly substance, propofol which was the primary cause of Michael Jackson's death, was repeatedly sent to a residence in Santa Monica that had a link to Jackson’s live-in physician.

The main target of federal and state police investigation, Dr. Conrad Murray, arranged for a Las Vegas pharmacy, Applied Pharmacy, to deliver a steady supply of propofol to his girlfriend's Santa Monica apartment. So reports TMZ.

Murray allegedly had the propofol sent via FedEx to girlfriend Nicole Alvarez, who also is the mother of the doctor's seventh child.

During the weeks before Jackson's death, Murray stayed at Alvarez's home during the day and spent nights at Jackson's home.

Alvarez was not being cooperative with investigators and was legally compelled to give testimony in front of the L.A. County Grand Jury last month.

If that wasn’t enough to give Murray's legal team headaches, Jackson's autopsy report was released, and it is filled with good news for prosecutors.

The coroner has ruled Jackson's death was caused by acute intoxication of the aforementioned propofol, with other sedatives being contributing factors. In addition, the coroner found the propofol was administered without any medical need and that recommended resuscitation equipment was not present.

The report also indicates that Jackson's physical condition was that of a healthy person whose death appears to have been directly caused by the administration of drugs.

A potential defense for Dr. Murray is therefore out the window; that Jackson had pre-existing health conditions, which created a greater risk of serious harm or death from the drugs the pop singer was taking.

The report bolsters the idea that Jackson’s death was caused by an overdose and consequently will not only be helpful for prosecutors, it will also enable the Jackson family to pursue a possible civil lawsuit.

2. Is Al Franken Hiding From the Media?

Reporters are finding that covering the freshman Minnesota senator is a bit of a challenge.

Sen. Al Franken is reportedly doing his best to dodge journalists.

Maybe it has something to do with rumors that have been circulating that the Democratic leadership told Franken to keep a low profile.

Since arriving in D.C., the former “Saturday Night Live” star has “delivered only one speech on the floor, introduced low-profile legislation and declined many media interview requests,” according to The Hill.

“It is not unusual for a freshman senator to adopt a deferential approach in a chamber that is high on decorum and seniority. But the former entertainer has gone out of his way to deflect attention away from himself,” The Hill also reported.

Wait a minute — Franken, the guy who years ago named a decade after himself, is avoiding the spotlight?

It seems, though, that The Hill criticism really got to the SNL alum. After the piece ran, he spoke out on the floor for a second time.

He also introduced a bill, which requires that at least 90 percent of health insurance premiums go toward health services, not profits.

And along with Minnesota House member Keith Ellison, Franken introduced a bill to expand the country’s free school lunch program.

Way to go, Sen. Smalley.

3. Michael Moore's Movie Fails to Attract Capital

Michael Moore's latest movie, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” which, incidentally, berates the free enterprise system that made Moore rich, had its first wide release weekend, playing in 962 screens across the country.

Moviegoers would apparently prefer to watch the living dead a la “Zombieland” than Moore's sophomoric propaganda, because Moore’s flick placed seventh, bringing in $4.9 million and tying with Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, "Whip It."

Drew's film actually had a better reception than Moore's. "Capitalism" played in almost twice as many theaters as "Whip It" but brought in an equal amount.

Moore's last film, “Sicko,” which, capitalistically speaking, execs viewed as disappointing, brought in $4.4 million in box-office take from 441 screens, less than half of the theaters in which “Capitalism” was released.

“Zombieland” took in five times the gross of Moore’s at $25 million.

The second week of the family comedy, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” had more than three times Moore's money at $16.7 million.

Despite the critics’ severe bashing of Ricky Gervais’ “The Invention of Lying,” the film attracted $7.4 million.

In industry terms, experts who analyze the movie business have a technical term for the performance level of Moore's flick. It's a flop.

Next thing you know Moore will be looking for a bailout.

4. How a CBS Producer Became a Criminal Defendant

How did a veteran “48 Hours” producer end up being accused of a         $2 million blackmail attempt on David Letterman?

“There is another side of this story,” Gerald Shargel, attorney for Robert J. Halderman, said. “This story is far more complicated.”

What could the plot to the other side of the story be?

Halderman has already entered a “not guilty” plea to first-degree attempted grand larceny.

According to Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, Halderman wrote to Letterman stating that he needed to “make a large chunk of money.”

Attached to his letter was a one-page screenplay treatment, which described how Letterman would have a “ruined reputation” after details of the CBS “Late Show” host’s sexual relationships with young female employees were revealed.

The 51-year-old producer used a novel method to deliver the “screenplay.” Early in the morning on Sept. 9, the letter and other materials were left in the back seat of Letterman’s car, which was parked outside his Manhattan home.

In the screenplay proposal, Halderman made reference to Letterman’s success and also mentioned the late night comic’s “beautiful and loving son.” He added that Letterman’s “world is about to collapse around him” as details about his private life are exposed.

He gave Letterman a deadline of 8 a.m. in which to strike a deal.

Instead of calling Halderman and striking a deal, Letterman phoned his attorney.

Letterman’s lawyer met with Halderman on Sept. 15. It was then that the producer allegedly demanded $2 million to keep mum about the sexual affairs Letterman had with female staff.

Under the watchful eye of the district attorney, Letterman’s lawyer met with Halderman two more times and secretly recorded his demands.

The attorney gave the alleged blackmailer a phony $2 million check. Halderman then tried to deposit the check in a Connecticut bank. He was arrested outside the CBS News offices and ultimately indicted on one count of attempted grand larceny in the first degree, which could land him a jail sentence of 5 to 15 years.

5. ‘Screenplay’ Defense for Accused Blackmailer of Letterman?

Is an unusual defense strategy being mulled over by lawyers for the prime-time producer who allegedly attempted to blackmail David Letterman?

After having been married for 14 years, Robert J. Halderman divorced in 2004.

A year later, an assistant to Letterman by the name of Stephanie Birkitt moved in with Halderman. It is possible that this is the source from whom Halderman derived the information on Letterman's escapades.

Birkitt and Halderman recently split up.

On the professional side, Halderman is an award-winning TV producer who’s known for his expertise on botched crimes. His current job as a CBS producer for the “48 Hours” television show exposed him to myriad true-crime stories about folks who succumbed to criminal activity for quick monetary gain.

Halderman had worked in the media for three decades. During that time, he garnered seven Emmys and a Columbia Dupont Award.

After producing for the “CBS Morning Show” in the early 1980s, Halderman went on to cover international news stories, which included segments on military conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia.

Public relations professional Mike Paul, who worked with the producer, told the New York Daily News that Halderman is “a guy who knows better.”

“He’s very intelligent,” Paul said. “He understands investigations of a crime. Has he done stories where people have gotten in trouble doing this? Dozens, probably hundreds.”

So what was Halderman doing?

He had once produced a movie for Showtime on the school siege in Beslan, Russia. It was titled “Three Days in September.” This means Halderman has a track record as a filmmaker.

It's fairly common for screenplays to be pitched in unconventional ways. There are stories of presentations taking place in strange places; folks wearing peculiar clothing; even disguises and pitches being made with the assistance of play acting.

Is it possible that Halderman’s lawyer will suggest that his client was merely engaged in a marketing drama and was really just pitching his screenplay to Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, with a whole lot of Hollywood flair?

It wouldn’t be the first time a far-fetched defense approach snagged a five-star rating with a jury.

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. Bad News for Michael Jackson's Doctor 2. Is Al Franken Hiding From the Media? 3. Michael Moore's Movie Fails to Attract Capital 4. How a CBS Producer Became a Criminal Defendant 5. Screenplay Defense for Accused Blackmailer...
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 03:31 PM
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