Yoko Ono's Chauffeur Tried To Extort $2 Million

NEW YORK (AP) - A judge set bail at $500,000 Thursday for a chauffeur for Yoko Ono after a prosecutor said he tried to extort $2 million from John Lennon's widow and "had people on standby waiting to kill" her.

Koral Karsan, 50, was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on a first-degree attempted grand larceny charge.

Assistant District Attorney Maureen O'Connor told Judge Tanya Kennedy that Karsan had threatened to kill the 73-year-old Ono and demanded $2 million from her.

"He had people on standby waiting to kill the victim on his orders," O'Connor said.

Kennedy set Karsan's bail at $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash, and gave prosecutors 72 hours to examine the source of the money once the defendant posts it.

O'Connor sought a high bail because she said the Turkish-born Karsan was an "extraordinary flight risk."

He had been in the country for about 10 years, had family, property and contact in Turkey, and "there is no doubt he would flee," she told the judge.

Karsan's lawyer, Patrick Kevin Brosnahan, said his client was not guilty and "will vigorously dispute these charges."

"There are other issues between my client and the complainant," Brosnahan said. He refused to elaborate.

Karsan, who was arrested Wednesday, disputed the allegations. As he was being led out of a police station he said Ono was trying to stop him from pursuing a sexual harassment case.

Ono's spokesman denied it.

"That is completely false. She's the victim here," spokesman Elliott Mintz told the New York Post.

Police said Karsan had threatened to circulate embarrassing photos of Ono and spoke of killing her and her son, Sean Lennon.

Ono reported the plot, New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.

Ono's security staff told detectives that Karsan, who lives in Amityville, wrote her in a rambling note that he had secretly photographed her and made audiotapes of her in private moments. Karsan warned he would make the material public if she didn't pay him, police said.

Mintz said Karsan had worked for Ono for at least six years, driving her on an almost daily basis when she was in New York.

"She is one woman who has been through enough," Mintz told The Associated Press. "For an employee - especially a trusted employee who drove her - to attempt a shakedown has left her just absolutely shocked."

Police said that on Dec. 8, the 26th anniversary of Lennon's slaying, Karsan dropped off the note and a photo of Ono in nightclothes at the Dakota apartment building, where the former Beatle once lived with her and where she still lives. They said Karsan talked about killing her, her son and himself during a later conversation with one of her associates, which was recorded by investigators.

The audiotapes of Ono were apparently recorded while she was speaking on a phone in the car with Karsan at the wheel, Mintz said.

"You're reminded that this takes place around that time of the anniversary, when she is in a particularly vulnerable position," Mintz said. "It just adds insult to injury. This one's really cold."

On the night of Dec. 8, 1980, Lennon was returning with Ono to the Dakota from a recording studio when Mark David Chapman opened fire with a .38-caliber revolver, hitting him four times.

Fans observe the anniversary of Lennon's death by gathering at Strawberry Fields, a section of Central Park opposite the Dakota. In the past, Ono and Sean Lennon have placed candles on the windowsill of the apartment as a message of support.