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CBS producer arrested in Letterman extortion plot




From the AP: A CBS News employee has pleaded not guilty to trying to blackmail David Letterman for $2 million in a plot that spurred the TV host to acknowledge sexual relationships with female staffers on his show.

Robert J. "Joe" Halderman entered his plea as he was arraigned on an attempted grand larceny charge Friday in a Manhattan court. Bail has been set at $200,000.

Halderman, a producer for the true-crime show 48 Hours, was arrested Thursday and indicted on one count of attempted first-degree grand larceny, punishable by five to 15 years upon conviction, the AP reports.

“Our concern here is extortion, and that’s what we’re focusing on,” Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said of the suspect’s indictment.

Documents filed in Stamford Superior Court in Connecticut show that Halderman, of Norwalk, was required to pay nearly $6,000 a month in child and spousal support to his ex-wife. Prosecutors declined to say whether Halderman had financial problems or other motives.

TMZ says that Halderman had a relationship and lived with Stephanie Birkitt, Letterman's former assistant and allegedly one of his former girlfriends. Birkitt has made several appearances on the show, and Haldermann apparently was using Birkitt's diary, correspondence and some photos to try and extort Letterman. The site says Birkitt and Letterman ended their relationship before Harry, his son with Regina Lasko, was born in 2003.

The district attorney's office said Halderman left a letter and other material for Letterman early Sept. 9. He wrote that he needed "to make a large chunk of money" by selling Letterman a screenplay treatment -- an entertainment-business term for a synopsis used to pitch a screenplay.

The supposed treatment said Letterman's world would "collapse around him" when information about his private life was disclosed, leading to "a ruined reputation" and damaging his professional and family life, prosecutors said. The letter also mentioned Letterman's "beautiful and loving son," prosecutors said.

[Photo: AP]

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[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:59am]


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