The man accused of trying to blackmail Yoko Ono has decided to give a plea a chance.
Koral Karsan pleaded guilty Friday in New York State Supreme Court to a lesser charge of third-degree attempted grand larceny and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.
Karsan, who worked for Ono for at least six years, originally pleaded not guilty to a first-degree charge of trying to extort $2 million from the singer, but his plea deal only required him to admit to threatening to embarrass Ono unless she paid him "more than $3,000."
Reading his confession aloud in court, Karsan said that, on Dec. 8, 2006, which happened to be the 26th anniversary of John Lennon's murder, he gave Ono a letter telling her, "if you want all of these recordings, emails, conversations and memories to vanish from the face of the earth and never hear from me again, all you have to do is send me an amount more than $3,000."
In Karsan's letter, which prosecutors read in court when the chauffeur was charged in December, he also told Lennon's widow that he had a team "on standby waiting to kill her on his orders," and that if she didn't pay up he would flee to his native Turkey to write a tell-all book about her.
Instead, Karsan, who is in this country illegally, is facing deportation and, because he has already been in jail for 60 days, will soon be transferred into federal immigration custody instead, his legal camp said.
Karsan's immigration attorney, Jonathan Aviron, said that he will request during an upcoming hearing that the driver be allowed to return to Turkey voluntarily because it will spare him a host of procedural difficulties if he ever chooses to return to the U.S.
Although a couple of his friends attempted to post his $250,000 bail, the 50-year-old Karsan remained behind bars because prosecutors had opened an investigation into his immigration status.
Assistant District Attorney Anne Schwartz told the judge Friday that her office had enough evidence to win a conviction—and potentially slap Karsan with a 15-year prison term—but that they accepted the deal to protect Ono's privacy, as well as the privacy of her family, friends and neighbors at the Dakota apartment building, where she has lived since the 1970s.
Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb said that his client, who has been in jail since his arrest Dec. 13, copped a plea because waiting around for a trial would have involved an even lengthier stay in the city lockup.
The lawyer said outside the courthouse that Karsan was a victim of sexual harassment and other mistreatment at the hands of Ono, maintaining that he was demanding compensation from the Plastic Ono Band singer, not a payoff.
"What happened in that letter goes on between lawyers every day," Gottlieb told reporters. "His mistake was in not hiring a lawyer to be his mouthpiece."
Ono's rep, Elliot Mintz, said that the artist had told him that she feels "vindicated because this man has admitted to his guilt."
Ono, who was with Lennon when he was shot to death by Mark David Chapman in 1980 in front of the Dakota, said recently that she struggles to stay positive when faced with adversity.
"Things are still happening. I'm not used to it," the youthful-looking septuagenarian (she turns 74 on Sunday) told the New York Post a couple of weeks ago. "I feel like I wish I had 20 hearts so each time one is broken I don't care."
Yes, I'm a Witch, an album featuring covers of Ono's work by indie acts such as the Flaming Lips and Cat Power came out Feb. 6.
She described the title track, which was written when Lennon was alive, as a nod to her dragon-lady reputation.
"At the time [when people were blaming me for the Beatles' breakup], everyone thought of me as a witch, as a dragon lady, and so I turned it around and said, 'Great,' " Ono said. "It was a very daring thing to say at the time."
Ono was also the subject of a 50th-birthday tribute album in 1984, Every Man Has a Woman, which featured, among others, the stylings of Roberta Flack, Elvis Costello, Harry Nilsson, Rosanne Cash and son Sean Lennon, who was nine when he contributed a version of "It's Alright."