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Real estate agents file $6-million suit over 'CSI' episode

Scott and Melinda Tamkin are alleging defamation and invasion of privacy, saying characters in the episode were based on them.

May 23, 2009|Harriet Ryan

When married real estate agents Scott and Melinda Tamkin read about an episode of the hit crime drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" that featured dirty-dealing, S&M-loving real estate agents named Scott and Melinda Tamkin, they didn't need to consult a forensic expert for an explanation.

A house sale involving the Tamkins and a "CSI" producer had fallen apart four years before, and the producer was listed, in the same online description, as the co-writer of the episode.

On Friday the Tamkins filed a $6-million defamation and invasion of privacy suit 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 Los Angeles County Superior Court are CBS, which broadcasts the series; Jerry Bruckheimer Television, the company that produced the episode; 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 "Deep Fried and Minty Fresh," an episode that 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 the surname was Tamkin in the original script and that Tamkin 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 Scott Tamkin did an Internet search for his name and discovered the "CSI" episode descriptions. The network tried to remove some of the postings, including pages where references to kinky sex ascribed to the fictional couple linked to pornography sites, said the Tamkins' lawyer, Anthony Glassman.

The couple declined through their attorney to speak about the suit. Glassman said it was beside the point that "CSI's" millions of viewers never heard the name Tamkin. He said the Web descriptions of the show were posted for at least five months before his clients learned about them.

If a potential seller did an Internet search for their real estate company and came upon the description of the characters in the "CSI" episode, "it's highly unlikely they would ever have contacted them and wanted to retain them as a professional real estate agent," Glassman 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, did not return messages left at her home or with her agent.

The producer met the Tamkins in 2005 when they were representing the owners of a Westside house she wanted to buy. Goldfinger pulled out after the sale was in escrow, but their business dealings with her were "absolutely normal," the couple's attorney said.

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

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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