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    Alleged Letterman Extortionist Cops Plea

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

    David Letterman's would-be blackmailer is headed to the Big House.

    Robert "Joe" Halderman, the CBS News producer accused of plotting to extort $2 million from the Late Show emcee, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted first-degree grand larceny today in a Manhattan courtroom as part of a deal with prosecutors that will allow him to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

    In exchange for admitting he tried to shake down Letterman by threatening to expose the funnyman's sexual liaisons with female staffers in the Home Office, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Charles H. Solomon handed the 48 Hours Mystery man six months in the slammer and four and a half years' probation. He also ordered him to perform 1,000 hours of community service.

    It could've been much worse.

    Halderman was initially facing up to 15 years in lockup had the case gone to trial and had he been convicted for the scheme.

    During today's hearing, the Emmy winner acted appropriately contrite.

    "I have great remorse and sincerely apologize to David Letterman and Stephanie Birkitt. I attempted to extort $2 million from David Letterman," Halderman told the judge.

    Per the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, the 27-year CBS News veteran hit up Letterman for the dough after discovering that his then live-in lover, the 34-year-old Birkitt, had been secretly seeing the comedian while she worked at the Late Show.

    An enraged and "desperate" Halderman, who owed thousands in child and spousal support to his ex-wife, tried to mask his intentions under the guise of a commercial transaction. He did so, prosecutors alleged, by claiming he was writing a screenplay treatment about the 62-year-old Letterman's dalliances and seeing if he wanted to buy it to keep word from leaking out.

    But Dave wasn't buying and alerted authorities, who shortly thereafter set up a sting and nabbed Halderman, 52, after he accepted a fake $2 million check from Letterman.

    Halderman admitted in court that his so-called business overture constituted a "thinly veiled threat."

    A rep for Letterman's company, World Wide Pants, issued a statement from the funnyman praising the D.A.'s Office for all its hard work.

    "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," said Letterman. "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."

    He also addressed the matter while taping The Late Show, again thanking the officials who assisted him.

    "I found myself in some legal trouble, and pretty quickly, it was turned over to the District Attorney's office here in Manhattan," Letterman said. "Now, I'd never been involved in anything like this in my life, and I was concerned, and full of anxiety, and nervous and worried. And the people in the District Attorney's office said, 'This will be handled professionally, this will be handled skillfully, and appropriately.' Well, the matter was resolved today, and they were exactly right—it was handled professionally, skillfully and appropriately."

    And, thanks to Letterman, comedically.

    In October, the gap-toothed comic stunned the public when he disclosed the extortion plot against him and acknowledged having trysts with employees.

    (Originally published March 9, 2010, at 11:55 a.m. PT)

    ________

    Catch up on the gory details of Letterman's search warrants here.

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