Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor

Desperate Housewives Trial3RD UPDATE, 4:30 PM: Michael Reinhart, credited as a construction coordinator on Desperate Housewives, has been identified as the caller who told Nicollette Sheridan’s lawyer that ABC planned to delete all emails related to Sheridan’s departure after she had filed her original lawsuit. Although IMDb lists him working on Housewives only in 2011, a source with knowledge of Reinhart’s employment history says, “The guy has been on the show since the pilot.” Attempts to contact Reinhart were unsuccessful, so Judge Elizabeth Allen White instructed her clerk to try to reach him directly at the end of the day today in hopes of having him appear in court tomorrow. They want him for what is known as a 402 hearing — it does not require a seated jury to be present — to determine whether he has information that is relevant. This afternoon, during jury instruction, Reinhart’s name was mentioned in court and defense lawyer Adam Levin “objected to Mr Reinhart taking the stand.” Later, Levin told Deadline: “These mystery emails appear to be a last-ditch effort by the plaintiff to save her case — I want to see the emails”.

2ND UPDATE, 12:27 PM: Here is the official transcript of the voicemail (listen to the audio here) from the Desperate Housewives employee who called Nicollette Sheridan’s lawyer Mark 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.

March 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm
8 year full time employee of Touchstone – Desperate Housewives

Nicollette Sheridan Desperate HousewivesUPDATE, 11 AM: Baute said the revelation that ABC attempted to have emails erased from Housewives‘ employees’ hard drives is legitimate. “I spoke to the guy for 45 minutes yesterday on the phone,” Baute told Deadline this morning, “and in my opinion this is for real”. The attorney said he received the voicemail in his office yesterday afternoon and expects that the employee in question will testify tomorrow morning. The plaintiffs rested their case this morning, and the defense has been bringing in a series of witnesses this morning. The jury is expected to receive instructions from the judge this afternoon for deliberations later this week.

PREVIOUS, 9:57 AM: Nicollette Sheridan’s lawyers dropped a bombshell in court this morning during Sheridan’s wrongful termination and battery trial. Mark Baute and Patrick Maloney played a voicemail from a “low-level” Desperate Housewives employee who said he was mistakenly included on an email that indicated ABC intended to use its IT department to wipe everyone’s hard drives of all communications in regard to the killing off of Sheridan’s Edie Britt character. The email was distributed to the series’ senior producers shortly after the actress first filed her suit on April 5, 2010. The staffer stated that there was “definitely a conspiracy to cover up correspondence.”

ABC Desperate HousewivesBaute and Maloney told the court they want to bring the caller in as a witness tomorrow and that the staffer has been dodging service of a subpoena since yesterday, which was to be the last day of the two-week trial. Defense attorney Adam Levin expressed shock at the voicemail and told Judge Elizabeth Allen White that this was “the first we’d heard of this.” White took both sides into chambers after the revelation, after which the trial resumed.

Sheridan contends she was cut from the show in its fifth season as fallout from an alleged head-hitting incident between her and Housewives creator/executive producer Marc Cherry on Sept 24, 2008. Cherry, who says he “lightly tapped” the actress in the process of giving her direction, testified that the decision to kill off the Sheridan’s character was made — with studio and network approval — on May 22, 2008. His version was backed on the stand by former ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz, former ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson, and Housewives producer Sabrina Wind. Cherry, accompanied by Wind and fellow producer Bob Daily, said he received Pedowitz’s studio approval in a private meeting that day. In his brief testimony Friday, McPherson said he gave network approval later that day in a meeting in his office, saying he had no emails or other documentation about the decision because he wanted it kept “confidential.”

The lack of electronic communication in the matter has been surprising. When asked on the stand last week if she sent or received emails about killing off the character, Wind told the court that she “could not recall.”

Sheridan was informed that her character would be killed off the show on February 10, 2009, one day before filming began on what was to be her last episode.