Alleged Letterman plotter pleads not guilty -- Kelly Frank's attorney says he was arrested on kidnap-solicitation charges based on remarks taken out of context
In court affidavits filed last week, a Teton County prosecutor swore that Kelly Frank confessed to the FBI that he had plotted to kidnap David Letterman’s toddler Harry from the Late Show host’s Montana ranch. Nonetheless, the Associated Press reports, Frank pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to felony charges surrounding the alleged plot to kidnap 16-month-old Harry and his nanny and ransom them for $5 million. He was ordered to remain jailed pending bail of $600,000, with his next court date scheduled for April 5.
Frank, who’s on probation for a felony conviction for intimidating a woman, was fingered by erstwhile friend and coworker Robert Gondeiro and arrested last Monday. Gondeiro told investigators that Frank, a handyman and painter who had worked at the Letterman ranch, tried to enlist him in the kidnap plot. Frank was charged with felony solicitation, felony theft (authorities said he confessed to overcharging Letterman between $1,000 and $1,500), and misdemeanor obstruction (for his initial denial to investigators).
Frank’s attorney, Jim Hunt, acknowledged to AP that his client had discussed the kidnap scheme, ”but with no purpose of carrying it out.” He called the discussion a ”lighthearted conversation.” His explanation echoed that of Frank’s fiancée, Laurie Johnson, who told reporters over the weekend that Frank’s remarks had been taken out of context, and that Gondeiro turned him in because of a grudge he’d been carrying against Frank ever since a squabble they’d had at work.
Letterman, who’d issued a statement of gratitude to the police and FBI investigators on Friday, spoke for the first time about the plot on Monday’s Late Show, his first broadcast since reports of Frank’s arrest surfaced last Thursday. ”Last week, my family and I were involved in a little legal activity, and fortunately everything turned out fine, but I want to just take a second here to thank some people,” Letterman told his audience. He specifically thanked four of the lawmen involved, as well as “the great people of Choteau, Montana.” Curiously unmentioned was Gondeiro.