David Letterman Blackmailer Begins Prison Sentence

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

March 09, 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.

Letterman Blackmailer Halderman Lived With 'Late Night' Host's Former Aide

In October 2009, Letterman, 62, announced during a taping of his "Late Show" that he had sexual relations with female members of his staff and decided to go public after receiving a package left on the back seat of his car demanding money to keep the affairs secret.

The package contained a letter that said, "I know that you do some terrible, terrible things and I can prove that you do these terrible things ... and sure enough what was contained in the package was proof that I do terrible, terrible things," Letterman told his audience.

The late night comic explained on air how his attorney contacted New York prosecutors to catch Halderman. Letterman later testified before a grand jury.

Halderman initially claimed that he was only trying to sell Letterman a screenplay, which included sordid details of the talk show host's life.

Halderman allegedly threatened to reveal "personal and private information" if Letterman did not accede to his demands to purchase the one-page screenplay, the Manhattan district attorney's office said at the time.

In October, Morgenthau said the screenplay described a scenario in which Letterman's world would "collapse all around him" and would lead to a "ruined reputation."

Morgenthau said the screenplay "covers all the necessary facts" needed to indict Halderman with one count of attempted grand larceny in the first degree.

Halderman lived until recently with Birkitt, a one-time personal assistant to Letterman who was alleged have carried on an affair with Letterman.

Public documents indicate that Birkitt and Halderman lived together in Norwalk, Conn., from August 2005 to August 2009. Birkitt now has an apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Halderman has been married and divorced twice, according to public records. He had two children with his second wife, and has three stepchildren. His former wife won custody of their children and now lives in Colorado.

Divorce records show that Halderman was ordered to pay $6,800 a month in alimony and child support, starting May 1, 2004.

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