Closing arguments could begin Tuesday in the "Desperate Housewives" trial, but not before the court rules whether to allow testimony from an 11th-hour witness that Nicollette Sheridan's attorneys say could prove a cover-up by ABC.
L.A. Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White late Monday ordered "Desperate Housewives" construction coordinator Michael Reinhart to appear in court at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. She'll rule at that time whether he will be allowed to testify in front of the jury.
Sheridan is seeking $6 million in damages from "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry and ABC for wrongful termination. She says she was fired from the show in February 2009 as retaliation for her complaint that Cherry had struck her in the head during taping on Sept. 24, 2008.
Sheridan's lead attorney Mark Baute said he had received an anonymous phone call (voicemail transcript below) from a man who said he worked on the set of "Desperate Housewives."
In the message, Baute said, the caller said he had mistakenly been sent an email that told of a computer purge of all messages relating to the death of Sheridan's character Edie Britt.
The caller would show there was "definitely a conspiracy to cover up correspondence," Baute said, and asked to call the mystery witness to the stand Tuesday.
After ABC lawyers told the court they had no previous knowledge of either the voicemail or the email it referenced, White ordered the court clerk to identify and find the caller.
In a statement issued outside the courtroom, lead defense attorney Adam Levin questioned the validity of discovery of the witness.
"Today's antics by the plaintiff, conjuring up mysterious emails, appears to be a last ditch effort save her case. At the 11th hour, we saw the plaintiff handing out transcripts and it all seemed very orchestrated.”
Here's a transcript of the voicemail left by the caller (later identified as Reinhart) to Sheridan's attorney Baute on Sunday afternoon:
Hi Mark. I’m an employee of "Desperate Housewives." I received an email soon after Nicollette filed suit; I think it was meant for a much narrower distribution, but it regarded having IT come in and wipe clean the hard drives of the producers in response to the correspondence that they’ve had e-mail wise about firing Nicollette. Um, I think I got it by mistake; I believe they were going to have the Disney IT person come in to do the sweeping of the hard drive ... that’s about all I know; you obviously can check this number and figure out who I am but I really don’t want to get involved. I’m a real low level employee there and I shouldn’t have got that e-mail, I’m on the general email list. but there was definitely a conspiracy to cover up the correspondence on email wise in regards to Nicollette. See ya.