David Letterman Blackmailer Begins Prison Sentence

Robert Halderman, who tried to extort $2M, led from court to begin jail term.

ByABC News
March 9, 2010, 1:24 PM

May 5, 2010— -- The television news producer accused of trying to blackmail David Letterman for $2 million by exposing the talk show host's extramarital affairs was sentenced today in a Manhattan court.

Robert "Joe" Halderman, an Emmy Award winning producer at CBS News, did not speak before being led from the courtroom to begin the six-month prison term he agreed to in March plea deal.

The sentencing hearing concludes seven months of media attention and speculation that started when Letterman announced on the "Late Show" in October 2009 that he had affairs with female members of his staff and had recieved a threat of blackmail.

Letterman was not in court.

Halderman entered a guilty plea in March, part of a deal that requires him to serve six months in prison, four and a half years probation and perform 1,000 hours of community service, 500 of which will take place in a Connecticut homesless shelter.

Had he not taken the deal, Halderman, who initially pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny, could have faced a 15-year prison sentence.

"In September of 2009, I attempted to extort $2 million from David Letterman by threatening to disclose personal and private information about him, whether true or false," Halderman told the court in March.

After he pleaded guilty, Halderman told reporters, "I apologize to Mr. Letterman and his family, Stephanie Birkitt and her family and certainly to my friends and family."

Birkitt is a former Letterman staffer who Halderman lived with until last year. Birkitt was rumored to have carried on an affair with the late-night comedian.

In court, Halderman said, "I feel great remorse for what I've done."

"I would like to thank the District Attorney of Manhattan, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the former District Attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Special Prosecutions Bureau in the D.A.'s Office, and the New York City Police Department. When they became involved with this case, I had complete faith that a just and appropriate result was inevitable. On behalf of my family, I am extremely grateful for their tireless efforts," Letterman said in a statement read by his lawyer Dan Horwitz.