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Real estate agents sue over 'CSI' script they say defames them

May 22, 2009 |  4:29 pm

When married real estate agents Scott and Melinda Tamkin read online this spring about an episode of the hit crime drama “CSI” featuring real estate agents named Scott and Melinda Tamkin -- and a kinky-sex element -- the explanation seemed clear.

A house sale involving the Tamkins and a “CSI” producer had fallen apart four years before, and the producer was listed as the co-writer of the episode.

On Friday, the Tamkins filed a $6-million defamation and invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against the producer, Sarah Goldfinger, saying she humiliated them and cost them potential business “by creating from whole cloth characters engaged in a reckless lifestyle of sexual bondage, pornography, drunkenness, marital discord, depression, financial straits and possibly even murder.”

Also named as defendants in L.A. County Superior Court are CBS; the company that produced the episode, Jerry Bruckheimer Television; and Goldman, Sachs Capital Partners, which is identified in court papers as a partner in the production.

 A Goldman spokesman declined to comment. The other defendants did not respond to messages seeking comment.

In the episode, “Deep Fried & Minty Fresh,” which aired in February, the characters in question – mysteriously deceased Melinda and her husband and suspected killer, Scott – are referred to as the Tuckers. But the suit contends that their surname was Tamkin in the original script and that the last name was used in casting calls and in synopses of the episode later posted widely online on “spoiler” sites and other pages.

A lawyer for the Tamkins, who live in Westwood with their three children, wrote in the suit that the “eleventh hour” name change was “for all intents and purposes an admission that [Goldfinger] had stepped over the line.”

The suit alleges that even after the switch, Goldfinger, who was also a producer on the episode, helped choose actors who resembled the Tamkins for the roles. The couple contacted CBS after discovering the online episode descriptions and the network tried to remove some references, including several on pornography sites referencing kinky sex ascribed to the fictional couple, said Tamkin’s lawyer, Anthony Glassman.

The Tamkins declined through their attorney to speak about the suit. Glassman said the fact that the millions of viewers in the U.S. and abroad who have made the show an international smash never hear the name "Tamkin" was beside the point. He said the Web descriptions of the show were posted for at least five months before his clients learned of them. If a potential seller Googled their real estate company, “it’s highly unlikely they would ever have contacted them and wanted to retain them as a professional real estate agent,” he said.

“In this business, you never know why the phone doesn’t ring.” Goldfinger, who has worked on “CSI” since 2003, according to imdb.com, met the Tamkins in 2005 when they were representing the owners of a Westside house the producer wanted to buy. Goldfinger pulled out after the sale was in escrow, but according to the couple’s attorney, their business dealings with her were cordial.

 “It was just a normal interaction between potential buyer of a home and a real estate agent representing a seller,” he said.

-- Harriet Ryan

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