She says her ex tampered with a message that purportedly sought a sperm donation from him

By Stephen M. Silverman
May 21, 2008 09:05 AM

Though they were officially divorced in 2006, the bitter, three-year battle between Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen over custody of their two daughters ratcheted up another notch Wednesday morning, when Richards appeared on the Today show – along with a previously never-seen e-mail in which Richards purportedly requested a sperm donation from Sheen, after their split.

Richards labeled the e-mail – which purportedly had been sent to Sheen’s then-girlfriend and now-fiancée Brooke Mueller – as bogus.

“That e-mail is not legitimate,” Richards, 37, told interviewer Matt Lauer. “It’s a doctored e-mail. I would never send an e-mail to his … girlfriend, and, at the time of that e-mail, I was with Richie [Sambora]. If I wanted anybody’s sperm, I’d have asked for Richie’s.”

Sheen’s defenders point out that Denise was not with Sambora at the time – the pair broke up around mid-March, while the e-mail to Mueller was dated April 3. “Richie and Denise were absolutely not together then,” says a source familiar with the situation. “If you’re going to lie, at least get a calendar to keep the dates straight.”

On the Today show, Richards said that at the time of the alleged e-mail she had just found out that her mother was dying, so she was not interested in getting pregnant – “especially with my ex-husband,” said Richards. (Her mother, Joni Richards, died in November 2007.)

The email purportedly included Richards telling Mueller: “Charlie and I have very beautiful healthy children together. I was strictly looking for a sperm donor if it’s any of your business.”

Alerted that his ex-wife would be appearing on Today, Sheen, 42, issued the following statement that was read on the air, saying that Richards’s “claims that her e-mail has been fabricated or altered in any way to create this story are absurd. The mere fact the she continues to publicly discuss and harass both Brooke and me three years after our separation which, for the record is longer than the actual length of the marriage, is beyond desperate and speaks volumes.”

The remainder of Sheen’s response was later made available to PEOPLE. It reads: “I will no longer sit back and be egregiously painted as a liar. If any proof can be established that these are not in fact her words and statements verbatim, I openly invite her and would even encourage Ms. Richards to sue me in a court of law. She had an opportunity to tell the truth. She did not. Here is the proof.”

Richards, ostensibly appearing on Today to promote her new reality show that premieres on E! on Memorial Day, Denise Richards: It’s Complicated, said it was no honor to be at the top of the list of Hollywood’s nastiest divorces – outranking such acrimonious splits as those experienced by Britney Spears and Kevin Federline, Heather Mills and Paul McCartney, and Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

In her own defense, Richards said she had no intention of making their battle so public. “It’s embarrassing, it’s humiliating,” she said, while describing herself as “a good mother … protecting her children.”

After meeting Sheen on the set of his sitcom Spin City, Richards, a former model and James Bond Girl, married him in June 2002. In March 2005, six months pregnant with their second child, Richards filed for divorce and, a year later, received a restraining order against Sheen, who was ordered to stay at least 300 feet from Richards, her home, her car and their two daughters except during supervised visits with Sam, now 4, and Lola, who turns 3 on June 1.

In her 17-page request for the order, Richards said that Sheen’s gambling, pill-popping and violent mood swings led to their initial separation, She reiterated those charges on Wednesday’s Today show.