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Letterman's would-be blackmailer out of jail in time for News Emmys

Just in time for the 31st Annual News & Documentary Awards, Emmy Awards, former CBS News producer Robert "Joe" Halderman has been set free from Riker's Island jail complex, where he was serving his six-month term for a plot to try to blackmail CBS late-night host David Letterman.

Halderman's one of four producers nominated for best continuing coverage of a news story by a newsmagazine, for their work on "48 Hours Mystery" about U.S. exchange student Amanda Knox, who was charged with murder in Italy.

The News and Docu Emmys will be awarded on Sept. 27 in Manhattan and Halderman's is by far the most interesting nomination from this year's crop of hopefuls. It's unclear whether, if Halderman wins, he'd be the first jailed national Emmy winner ever, but we like to think so. And, though there's no word yet as to whether Halderman will attend the ceremony at the Time Warner Center, for sure the prospect of him being there to pick up an Emmy has made that, sadly non-televised, trophy ceremony about 30 percent more interesting than usual.

Halderman was released from the slammer early when he got time off for good behavior, though he still has to complete 1,000 of community service and will be on probation for five years.

"He survived this, and he's glad to be getting off the island," his lawyer, Gerald Shargel, told the Associated Press, adding that Halderman is looking for work.

Ironically Halderman snagged his News & Docu Emmy one week after Letterman's CBS late-night talk show did not get a nomination for best variety show for the first time in that show's history at the so-called Primetime Emmy Awards, which deal mostly with primetime and late-night entertainment programming.

But, while Halderman might get an Emmy, Letterman got record ratings, rave reviews, and broke new TV-content ground with the Halderman story when about 6 million people were held spellbound on Oct. 1, as Dave admitted on national TV he had shagged show interns/staffers over the years and a guy was trying to blackmail him over it; Halderman was arrested that same day. Everybody wins.

Halderman, who no longer works for CBS News, began serving his jail time in May after admitting in March he'd tried to squeeze $2 million out of Letterman in exchange for information he'd gathered about affairs Letterman had in the past with female show staffers, including Halderman's former girlfriend.

Halderman, 52, pleaded guilty earlier this spring to attempted grand larceny. He admitted he demanded $2 million in hush money last fall to keep from revealing personal information about Letterman, presenting his threat in a somewhat colorful form: as an outline for a thinly veiled screenplay about the "Late Show" host being ruined by disclosures about his personal life.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  September 2, 2010; 4:40 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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