The Letterman scandal: A timeline
The CBS producer who attempted to blackmail David Letterman has been sentenced to six months in jail. Here's how the story unfolded.
A CBS news producer accused of trying to blackmail David Letterman over his sexual liaisons with interns will be jailed for six months after pleading guilty to all charges. Robert Halderman's admission brings to an end the embarrassing sex scandal that embroiled the Late Show host at the end of 2009, detailed in a lengthy profile in this month's Vanity Fair. Here, a timeline of how Letterman's affairs became public knowledge:
1996: Stephanie Birkitt, a "sweet, witty blonde" from New Hampshire, begins an internship at the Late Show.
December 2000: During a "bit" on the show, Letterman calls his production office. Birkitt answers and the two banter on live television. The two have such a "phone rapport" that Birkitt becomes a regular guest on the show, or a "living punch line" as one colleague calls her. Over the next eight years, she makes 260 appearances on the show.
2004: Birkitt meets and begins a relationship with Robert Halderman, a veteran CBS News producer known for working in dangerous war zones and collaborating with correspondents such as Dan Rather and Bob Simon.
2005: Birkitt moves in with Halderman.
Feb. 2006: Birkitt travels to the Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, and begins a romantic relationship with Letterman. The Late Show host is already in a steady relationship with Regina Lasko, whom he met in 2003.
December 2008: Halderman finds Birkitt's diary, in which she details the "late night trysts" in his "Tribeca loft" and romantic trips to Montana and St Bart's. He confronts her, and Birkitt swears she'll end the relationship.
March 2009: Letterman marries Lasko in a quiet ceremony near his Montana ranch.
August 2009: Halderman spies Letterman and Birkitt in a "passionate embrace" outside his home. He decides to write a screenplay about the "environment of workplace sexual conduct" at the Late Show. Birkitt moves out of the house shortly afterward, though she is reportedly unaware of Halderman's plot.
Sept. 9, 2009: Letterman receives a screenplay "treatment" written by Halderman, which the producer leaves on the back seat of his car, detailing various affairs he has had with interns.
Sept. 15, 2009: Letterman meets with Halderman at the Jumeirah Essex House hotel on Central Park South in Manhattan. The CBS producer says he will sell his screenplay treatment to Letterman for $2 million in exchange for his silence on Letterman's affairs. They will meet again on Sept. 23 and 30.
Sept. 16, 2009: Letterman contacts the New York County district attorney to report that he is being blackmailed.
Sept. 30, 2009: Meeting Letterman for a third time, Halderman is recorded by the authorities setting a price for his screenplay and asking for a written contract. Letterman gives him a phony check for $2 million.
Oct. 1, 2009: Halderman attempts to redeem the check and is arrested shortly afterward. Letterman announces on his show that he was subject to an extortion attempt and tells his live audience about the "terrible, terrible things" he had done. "I have had sex with women who work for me on this show," he admits.
Oct. 2, 2009: Halderman pleads not guilty and is bailed out on a $200,000 bond posted by two of his colleagues. His lawyer says the story is "far more complicated" than it appears.
Oct. 5, 2009: The Late Show pulls in 5.7 million viewers, a 19 percent ratings boost, and far more than his Tonight Show rival Conan O'Brien.
Oct. 6, 2009: Letterman's affair with Birkitt is revealed by the New York Post.
Nov. 27, 2009: The Tiger Woods scandal breaks and takes some of the attention away from the Letterman scandal.
Jan. 19, 2010: Halderman attempts to have the charges dropped, claiming he had "the right" to write a screenplay about a public figure. His plea is dismissed.
Jan. 21, 2010: Jay Leno, peeved at Letterman's digs at his war with Tonight Show presenter Conan O'Brien, pokes fun at the Birkitt affair. "You know the best way to get Letterman to ignore you?" he says. "Marry him."
Mar. 9, 2010: Halderman pleads guilty to grand larceny and is sentenced to six months in prison.