Former CBS Corp. television producer Robert “Joe” Halderman was sentenced to six months in jail for trying to extort $2 million from David Letterman by threatening to reveal information about the talk-show host’s sex life.
Halderman, 52, was promised the sentence when he pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted larceny March 9. He also will serve five years’ probation and do 1,000 hours of community service, New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon said today.
Halderman agreed to forfeit the screenplay treatment he wrote about Letterman that he used to negotiate a payment from the TV personality’s lawyer, and not to discuss or otherwise disseminate anything about Letterman and his family related to the treatment or the case.
“What I want to emphasize is he’ll look forward rather than backward,” Halderman’s attorney Gerald Shargel told reporters after the hearing today, which lasted less than five minutes. “He accepted responsibility. He expressed remorse.”
Halderman, who didn’t speak at the hearing today, admitted in March that he was trying to blackmail the talk-show host when left a package marked “privileged and confidential” with Letterman’s driver outside his Manhattan home Sept. 9, including a one-page screenplay treatment. Halderman wrote that Letterman’s world was “about to collapse around him” as details of his private life were disclosed, according to prosecutors.
‘Threat Was Simple’
“Halderman’s threat was simple: Unless Mr. Letterman paid him two million dollars, defendant Halderman would make public information about a purported personal, sexual relationship between Mr. Letterman and his assistant,” prosecutors said in a court filing.
Halderman was arrested Oct. 1 after Letterman reported the plot to authorities. Letterman, 63, revealed it on his television program the same day.
Halderman was charged with attempted first-degree grand larceny. He could have faced as long as 15 years in prison if he had been convicted at a trial. He had been free on $200,000 bail and subject to an order of protection to stay away from Letterman.
He will be imprisoned at Rikers Island prison in New York, attorney Shargel said today. He could spend four months there if his sentenced is reduced for good behavior, Shargel said.
“He’s been to all the hot spots in the world,” Shargel said. “I think he can handle Rikers Island.”
Halderman, a producer at CBS for more than 27 years, claimed he wrote the proposal after dating and, in 2005, living with Stephanie Birkitt, a woman who worked on the CBS “Late Show” with Letterman, according to court filings.
In late 2008, he discovered that Birkitt was “carrying on a sexual relationship with Letterman,” according to court filings. Halderman confronted Birkitt, who promised to end the relationship. In the summer of 2009, he learned that it had continued, according to court papers.
Halderman then began to write about the intertwined relationships and the behind-the-scenes atmosphere at the show, having discovered evidence that Letterman fostered an environment of “workplace sexual misconduct,” Halderman claimed in court papers.
“This has been a difficult situation for the people involved and we respect the outcome of the legal process,” CBS said in a March statement.
In an April interview with Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa, Letterman spoke about trying to save his marriage.
The case is People v. Halderman, 4957-CR-2009, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).