David Letterman breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday after former CBS News producer Robert “Joe” Halderman pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny in a Manhattan courtroom.
Shortly after the plea was announced, the “Late Show With David Letterman” host released a statement in which he praised prosecutors, saying, “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.”
Later, on the air, Letterman said he’d never been involved in anything like this before and was initially “full of anxiety and nervous and worried” about the plea, according to a Reuters report. But his fears were calmed when prosecutors assured him it would be handled “skillfully and appropriately.” He went on to thank Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau for helping out on the case.
Months after a surprising sex scandal exposed the behind-the-scenes affair the very private Letterman carried on with a staffer, the plea deal by Halderman avoided a potentially embarrassing trial. Halderman, 52, was sentenced to six months in prison after his guilty plea over a scheme in which he attempted to extort $2 million from Letterman in exchange for keeping quiet about the affair.
After originally pleading not guilty in October to the charges, Halderman took a plea bargain in which he will also do 1,000 hours of community service and be on probation for five years, according to Reuters. Halderman had been facing up to 15 years in prison for attempted grand larceny.
During his court appearance, Halderman said he felt “great remorse” for his actions, and he apologized to Letterman for the incident. Halderman’s lawyer had initially claimed the producer was trying to sell a script to the late-night host, not extort money.
“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 judge. The producer had lived with Stephanie Birkitt, a Letterman staffer, and after learning of her affair with the married father of a young son, Halderman demanded the money in exchange for not going public with the potentially damaging information. Letterman went directly to police, and Halderman was later arrested while trying to cash a phony check given to him by one of the comedian’s attorneys. Letterman admitted to the infidelity on air and discussed the extortion attempt on a show in October.
According to People magazine, in a statement, Letterman’s attorney, Daniel J. Horwitz, said, “[Halderman's] admissions today were compelling, and for that he will receive a serious sentence.”