A former TV producer pressured by debt and riven by jealousy has admitted trying to blackmail David Letterman in a case that bared the talk show host's affairs with staffers.
Robert "Joe" Halderman pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny, acknowledging he tried to get $2m (€1.47m) from Letterman.
He threatened to destroy Letterman's reputation by airing his workplace dalliances -- using information authorities have said he mined from a former girlfriend's diary. The plea deal by Halderman spares him a potential 15 years in prison. The 52-year-old is due instead to get a six-month jail sentence and 1,000 hours of community service. The plea deal also spares Letterman the prospect of a trial that could have put his private life on display, though the comedian masterfully defused much of Halderman's potential bombshell last autumn by revealing that he had slept with women on his staff. Under the agreement, Halderman must give prosecutors all copies of any diary entries, photos, screenplay notes or other materials he has concerning Letterman and must agree never to reveal the contents.
Halderman at the time worked for the same network as Letterman, CBS, as a producer on 48 Hours Mystery, which reports in depth on real-life crime stories.
The case at first dealt a blow to Letterman's nice-guy image; even he described his office affairs as "creepy" as he stunned viewers with an October 1 monologue that disclosed the liaisons and the blackmail plot.
Letterman married longtime girlfriend Regina Lasko last year. They began dating in 1986 and have a six-year-old son.
Halderman apologised to the host of the Late Show, also on CBS, as he spelled out the details of his crime in a Manhattan court, reading a prepared statement at first so quickly that the judge asked him to slow down.
CBS News said Halderman was no longer an employee but declined to say whether he had quit or been fired.