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Letterman Possible Former Lover May Be Key

A woman said to be a significant part of Dave Letterman's fairly recent past may hold a key to his future -- and that of the man who allegedly tried to extort Letterman out of $2 million, according to a longtime sexual harassment attorney.

Veteran CBS News producer Robert Halderman (known as Joe), 51, , posted $200,000 bond and was released. He's been suspended by CBS News.

Prosecutors charge that Halderman threatened to go public with word of affairs Letterman had engaged in sex with staffers of his show if the late-night host didn't give Halderman the $2 million.

It was the star himself who first revealed the alleged plot, and that he'd been having the sexual relationships, on "The Late Show with David Letterman" Thursday night.

CBS News Correspondent Bianca Solorzano reports that, "One of the women alleged to have been involved with Letterman is his former assistant, Stephanie Birkitt."

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Birkitt, 34, and Halderman lived together from early 2005 until August of this year at his Norwalk, Conn. home, Solorzano says, adding, "Sources close to Halderman claim the intimate relationship between Letterman and Birkitt began in December 2007."

By August, Birkitt and Halderman had separated and she moved out, and in September, Halderman began his alleged shakedown of Letterman, Solorzano says.

Letterman then reported the blackmail plot to the New York district attorney's office, Solorzano continues. Law enforcement sources tell CBS News that, at the last two meetings with Letterman's lawyer in September, Halderman was recorded, on both audio and videotape, demanding $2 million. A day later, on Oct. 1, Halderman deposited a bogus check for $2 million dollars and was arrested.

On "The Early Show" Wednesday, CBS News legal analyst Lisa Bloom -- a sexual harassment law expert for a decade -- told "Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez that, even if it's proven that Letterman had a relationship with Birkitt while she was living with Halderman, "I suppose his defense may rest on diminished capacity -- that he was so upset and enraged by the fact that his girlfriend was involved with David Letterman, he didn't know what he was doing, he didn't know what he was thinking. That may help him a little bit at sentencing, but it's not going to help him at the guilt phase, as to whether or not he committed extortion. That's going to be based on the audiotape, the videotape and, of course, that $2 million check."

Another possible Halderman defense strategy may be to claim Birkitt was sexually harassed by Letterman, but, observes Bloom, "The only person who's claimed sexual harassment in this case thus far is the defense attorney for Halderman. No woman has come forward and made a claim. Now, sexual harassment is not a defense to extortion. They're two entirely different theories. The only possible way it could be relevant to the extortion case is if Halderman's going to say he accepted that $2 million as a payment for a sexual harassment claim on behalf of Stephanie Birkitt. But that doesn't make a lot of sense. He's not an attorney for he, she's not the one who received the check. So, so far no proof in support of that claim and no real explanation from the defense attorney as to how the two claims are connected."

In any event, Bloom says, Birkitt "is key. And she hasn't spoken out yet. And she's the woman at the center of this (possible) love triangle, to some extent. It's gonna be very interesting to see whether she comes forward and supports Halderman's claim that she was sexually harassed by David Letterman, or if she's going to say Halderman did this entirely on his own. Yes, maybe she was involved with both of them, but she's not making any kind of claims against Letterman (at least not yet)."