'Desperate Housewives' Trial: Surprise Witness Suggests ABC Deleted Sheridan E-mails

Notes From the Field

Nicolette Sheridan arrives at court.

Despite strenuous protests from the attorney for Marc Cherry and ABC, the judge in the Desperate Housewives trial allowed a surprise witness to testify Tuesday that he saw an e-mail in fall 2010 that said ABC and Disney planned to delete all e-mails relating to Nicollette Sheridan and the killing of her character from the computer hard drives of show producers.
Michael Reinhart, a construction coordinator on Housewives for all eight seasons, said he was "disturbed" by the e-mail but immediately deleted it and tried to forget about it. But he said that proved impossible; after sleepless nights, he said he felt he had to come forward before the trial ended and tell Sheridan’s legal team what he had seen and remembered.
During a preliminary discussion before the jury was brought in, Reinhart was asked why he chose to come forward. "To possibly equalize an inequity I felt because of what I perceived was in the email," he said.


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Under questioning by Adam Levin, lead attorney for Cherry and ABC, Reinhart said he could not recall the exact words in the e-mail, except that it included "delete," "hard drive" and "producers."
Levin tried to suggest it could have been an e-mail about preserving documents, but Reinhart said he didn't remember it saying anything about preserving.
Levin asked if it was possible he had misunderstood the contents of the e-mail, and Reinhart said, "Yes, it is possible I misunderstood it."
Reinhart said he told Sheridan attorney Marc Baute when he called him Sunday that he did not want to be involved or testify. When asked why, he said, "I expressed my strong reluctance to get involved because of the professional ramifications on my career."


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In the first hearing before the judge, Reinhart said he felt he was committing "professional suicide" that would not only impact his ability to get jobs but also those of his crew, and thus his testimony would negatively impact their families as well.
Reinhart agreed to turn over his computer to the defense so they can do a forensic examination to see if they can find the e-mail he said he received, even though he said he deleted it then killed it out of the system.


Closing arguments are expected to begin Tuesday afternoon and run into Wednesday. Each side has been allocated two hours to sum up their case before it goes to the jury.


E-mail: Alex.Benblock@thr.com