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March 9, 2010

Former CBS producer pleads guilty to trying to extort David Letterman

The Letterman extortion case has now become a sentencing matter as the defendant in the case has now entered a plea.  This New York Times report provides the basic details:

Saying that he felt “great remorse for what I have done,” a former CBS producer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to trying to extort $2 million from David Letterman by threatening to reveal details about affairs that Mr. Letterman had with members of his staff, including a former companion of the producer.

In exchange for pleading guilty to second-degree attempted grand larceny, the former producer, Robert Joel Halderman, will receive a six-month jail sentence, after which he must serve four and a half years of probation. Mr. Halderman must also perform 1,000 hours of community service.  A more serious charge of first-degree attempted grand larceny, which carries a maximum 15-year term, was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Mr. Halderman, 52, is to be formally sentenced and go to jail on May 4. With good behavior, he could be released in about four months. “We raised some novel legal issues, novel defenses,” his lawyer, Gerald L. Shargel, said by telephone after the court proceeding. “I couldn’t be at all certain that they would prevail. Weighing the risks against the rewards, I thought this was an opportunity to make the best of a bad mess.”

Outside the courthouse, one of Mr. Letterman’s lawyers read a statement from him thanking the Manhattan district attorney’s office. “When they became involved with this case, I had complete faith that a just and appropriate result was inevitable,” Mr. Letterman said in the statement. “On behalf of my family, I am extremely grateful for their tireless efforts.”

Daniel J. Horwitz, one of his lawyers, added: “This is a serious sentence that properly reflects the crime he now admits he committed. And it brings this case to a fitting end.”

Mr. Halderman, an Emmy Award-winning producer for CBS News, was arrested on Oct. 1, after trying to deposit a fake $2 million check from a lawyer for Mr. Letterman in a sting operation set up by the district attorney’s office. Sitting before Justice Charles Solomon of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Mr. Halderman said in a calm tone, “I attempted to extort $2 million from David Letterman by threatening to disclose personal and private information about him, whether true or false.”...

As part of the nine-page plea agreement, Mr. Halderman also agreed to turn over to the district attorney’s office any material he had about Mr. Letterman’s personal life, like letters, pictures and diary or journal entries. Mr. Halderman is forbidden from discussing any of the materials or knowledge he had about Mr. Letterman’s personal life.

The plea offer that Mr. Halderman accepted came about within the past two weeks, Mr. Shargel said. “Mr. Letterman is a public figure, but like all New Yorkers, he has a right to a certain degree of privacy in his personal life,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said in a statement. “I commend Mr. Letterman for making the difficult but unquestionably right decision to report this crime to my office.”

I would be eager to hear if folks think that justice was served by a six-month jail sentence, four and a half years of probation, and 1,000 hours of community service in this high-profile case. 

March 9, 2010 at 06:13 PM | Permalink


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Without knowing all the facts, how could one tell if the sentence was fair or not? It does look like it was tailored to avoid trial to protect Letterman. Letterman did not strike me as a very sympathetic victim.

Posted by: effie | Mar 10, 2010 10:12:59 AM

Let the disciplinarians howl (coulda shoulda been 15 years!).

Six months in prison, a felony rap for life, the loss of a once-impressive career, four and half years of meaningless ritual hassling and a thousand hours of humiliating "public service" seem adequate to punish Halderman and discourage others from trying to cash in on office dirt.

Yet he'll have a chance at a second chance. He won't have been institutionalized (and therefore rendered worthless for all intents and purposes)when it's over.

And that could be a good thing for society as well as Halderman.

He'll have a chance at a second chance. And that could be a good thing for society as well as Halderman.

Posted by: John K | Mar 10, 2010 6:47:36 PM

Oops...didn't delete the extra, repetitive sentence at the bottom.

Posted by: John K | Mar 10, 2010 6:50:12 PM

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