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    From the Home Office in NYC: Alleged Letterman Extortionist Pleads Innocent

    David Letterman, Robert Halderman CBS; AP Photo/Pool, Marc A. Hermann

    UPDATE: Halderman posted bail Friday afternoon.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    And the No. 1 Reason Not to Blackmail David Letterman? You might end up sharing a jail cell with Kelly.

    An Emmy-winning CBS News producer has pleaded not guilty today of trying to extort $2 million from the Late Show host to keep quiet about Letterman's liaisons with female employees.

    Robert "Joe" Halderman, a longtime 48 Hours staffer specializing in, ahem, true-crime segments, appeared in a Manhattan courtroom for arraignment on one count of attempted first-degree grand larceny.

    Bail was set at $200,000, after Assistant District Attorney Judy Salwen told the judge Halderman was "desperate" and "capable of doing anything."

     

    The count carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

    "This story is far more complicated," Halderman's attorney, Gerald Shargel, said after the arraignment, portraying the producer, a 27-year CBS vet, as a devoted dad to his two sons with no prior criminal record.

    Court documents show that Halderman was ordered to pay his ex-wife $6,800 per month in child and spousal support. Beginning in 2011, the payments go down to $5,966. Halderman had lost a bid to dramatically reduce those payments.

    But prosecutors weren't showing any sympathy.

    "Our concern here is extortion, and that's what we're focusing on," District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said earlier today, after announcing the charge.

    Per the indictment, Halderman, 51, holed up outside Letterman's home in the wee hours of Sept. 9, waiting to deliver a letter and package to the funnyman.

    As recounted last night by the 62-year-old host, the parcel was placed in the backseat of his car and contained evidence of his dalliances (or as Letterman described them, "terrible, terrible things").

    An accompanying note pointed to Letterman's great professional success and his "beautiful and loving son" and then warned his "world was about to collapse around him" should the information go public.

    Letterman immediately alerted his lawyer, who in turn called the D.A.'s office. Police then set up a sting operation in which the star's attorney wore a wire and met with Halderman on three separate occasions before handing over a fake check.

    (Originally published Oct. 2, 2009, at 10:27 a.m. PT)

    ________

    When he's not dealing with blackmailers, Letterman would rather be eating pizza with Madonna.

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