LOS ANGELES — The trial over Nicollette Sheridan's firing from "Desperate Housewives" featured one last twist Monday with the disclosure of a mystery witness who has indicated show officials tried to cover up correspondence related to the actress.
A judge ordered the man to appear in court Tuesday morning to determine whether he will become one of the final witnesses that jurors considering the case will hear from. The man, who was identified as Michael Reinhart, left a message for Sheridan's attorney on Sunday afternoon stating that he mistakenly got an email that suggested that messages related to Sheridan's departure would be purged.
The man on the message said he didn't want to become involved in the case, but by day's end had becoming the latest intriguing thread in a trial that has featured a behind-the-scenes look at "Desperate Housewives" and conflicting testimony on whether Sheridan was struck by show creator Marc Cherry during a September 2008 dispute.
"There was a definite conspiracy to cover up the correspondence on email-wise in regards to Nicollette," the caller is heard saying on the call, which was played in court outside the presence of the jury.
Adam Levin, an attorney for Cherry and ABC, dismissed the claims. He noted in court that he had not spoken with Reinhart.
"Today's antics by the plaintiff, conjuring up mysterious emails, appears to be a last ditch effort save her case," Levin said after Monday's proceedings.
Closing arguments are likely to begin on Tuesday as both sides call their final witnesses. Sheridan's attorney Mark Baute, who received the message Sunday, said he would like to call Reinhart as a witness.
Sheridan, 48, is suing Cherry and ABC for wrongful termination and battery and is seeking $6 million in damages.
Numerous witnesses for the show's creator and network have testified that the decision to kill off Sheridan's Edie Britt character was made in May 2008, four months before her dustup with Cherry on the show's set. Cherry maintains he tapped the actress while trying to give her direction for a scene, but Sheridan claims he struck her hard on the left temple, leaving her stunned and humiliated.
The incident happened during the show's fifth season, which was Sheridan's final one on the series.
"Desperate Housewives," a glossy prime-time comedy/soap opera with an ensemble cast including Teri Hatcher and Longoria, made a pop-culture and ratings splash when it premiered in 2004 but has seen its audience dwindle. It is in its last season.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP