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Who deserves a second chance -- celebrity edition

January 4, 2012 |  5:26 am

Joe Halderman
It's hard, we know, for ex-felons who want to return to the straight life to get hired. Their job applications often go directly in the round file.

So maybe it's good news for all former convicts that Joe Halderman, who served several months in prison  for attempted extortion, has found a job.

According to The Times story, the former producer of "48 Hours Mystery," a much-lauded Emmy- and Dupont-winning CBS News employee, is going back to work, this time as producer of Investigation Discovery's show "On the Case with Paula Zahn."

Halderman had pleaded guilty to grand larceny, demanding $2 million from late-night TV host David Letterman. Letterman, on his show, characterized the matter as blackmail, in the form of a potential screenplay or book revealing Letterman's affairs with women who worked on the show. Halderman served four months behind bars before his release in September 2010, and he is still evidently on probation.

Rehabilitation is commendable. The name of California's prison system is, after all, "corrections and rehabilitation." And second chances are the American way.

Yet this case raises a couple of points: One, that there are so many great journalists with clean records out there, out of work and looking for work, among them perhaps even a few with the kind of credentials to do the job on the Zahn show.

And two, there are other first-time ex-felons whose crimes were also nonviolent, like trying to steal a car. They are certainly not qualified to be TV producers, but at even the jobs they may be otherwise qualified for, employers won't look at them twice. And when people with some job skills and the ambition to go straight are paroled from prison and can't find legitimate work -- well, that's one reason the crime cycle continues.

Then there's another kind of rehabilitation case that's before California's Supreme Court right now.

The notorious ex-journalist Stephen Glass was never accused of a crime, but the onetime hotshot ''reporter'' simply made up stories in the New Republic, a magazine that liked to call itself "the in-flight magazine of Air Force One."

He not only faked stories but faked his sources to cover his tracks for the fact-checkers, like a phone number to a nonexistent company and a phony website for that company.

Glass made up some or all of at least two-thirds of the stories he did for the New Republic, and his story is recounted in Billy Ray's fine 2003 film "Shattered Glass."

Astonishingly, after Glass was fired, he still managed to persuade Simon & Shuster to publish his novelized biography -- another classic case of a Beltway-Big Apple boy failing upward.

Glass earned a law degree, and when he tried to get his law license in New York state, the Committee of Bar Examiners would not certify him under its moral fitness standards.

So Glass came to California, the land of reinvention, to try again. He has been clerking at a Beverly Hills firm, and he applied for a lawyer's license, but California's own bar examiner committee turned him down for pretty much the same reasons that New York's had.

He appealed to the state bar's independent court and won over two of threemembers with evidence of reform, attested to by a number of witnesses, including two judges he had worked for. In a submission to the state Supreme Court, Glass said he had been forgiven by editors, including Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner.

But bar attorney Rachel Grunberg argued that Glass had made misrepresentations to the New York state bar, and that he repented only "when it suited him, and not when it was most needed by his victims."

To sum up a very detailed process, this time it was the bar examiners who appealed, and now it's California's Supreme Court that, for the first time in nearly a dozen years, will decide whether someone -- Glass, in this case -- is morally fit to practice law.

Whatever the state Supreme Court decides, what I'd like to know from all of you is, would you hire this man to represent you? 

ALSO:

Now hiring: Ex-cons need apply

Raj Rajaratnam: The feeble defense of an insecure billionaire

Opportunities await Lindsay Lohan ... in jail [Ted Rall cartoon]

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Joe Halderman.

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