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Letterman extortionist pleads guilty, gets 6 months

Television producer Robert Halderman pleaded guilty Tuesday to an extortion plot against CBS funnyman David Letterman in a deal that will require him to do only six months in prison for his threats to expose the star's affairs with staffers.

"I understand that my attempt to extort $2 million from Mr. Letterman violated his and his family's privacy," Halderman said during a brief hearing in state Supreme Court in Manhattan. "I promise to respect their privacy in the future. I feel great remorse for what I have done."

Halderman, 52, formerly a producer at CBS' "48 Hours Mystery," had become aware of Letterman's affairs through his own relationship with Stephanie Birkett, who had been involved with Letterman when she was a staffer on "The Late Show."

Halderman pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny extortion before Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon. Without the plea deal, he could have faced up to 15 years in jail.

In addition to six months in jail, which Solomon called a "greatly reduced" sentence, Halderman will be required to do 1,000 hours of community service for the homeless in New York and Connecticut, where he lives.

Prosecutors alleged that Halderman learned of Letterman's affairs by reading Birkett's diary. Detailing the plot in court, Halderman said that in September outside Letterman's Manhattan home, he gave the comic's driver a sealed envelope that contained a document titled "Treatment for a Screenplay."

"This so-called treatment was just a thinly veiled threat to ruin Mr. Letterman if he did not pay me a lot of money," Halderman said. "Later that month, on three different occasions I met with Mr. Letterman's lawyer to work out the details of the extortion.

"I knew throughout this time that I was not engaged in a legitimate business transaction with Mr. Letterman and that what I was doing was against New York law," he added.

Later, at the taping of Tuesday night's "Late Show," Letterman spoke of how he was "concerned and full of anxiety and nervous and worried" when the "legal trouble" occurred.

"And the people in the district attorney's office said, 'This will be handled professionally, this will be handled skillfully and appropriately,' " the late-night host told his studio audience. "Well, the matter was resolved today, and they were exactly right - it was handled professionally, skillfully and appropriately."

With Verne Gay and AP

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