Showtime & ‘Billions’ Producers Hit With Defamation Suit By Cayuga Nation

Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades and Jeffrey DeMunn as Chuck Rhoades Sr. in BILLIONS (Season 4, Episode 08, "Fight Night"). - Photo: Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: BILLIONS_408_32.R.JPG Showtime

There are a lot of real life inferences and innuendos in Billions, but Showtime’s high stakes and high finance drama might have finally strayed too close to reality – at least according to a defamation lawsuit launched by New York’s Cayuga Nation and tribal leader Clint Halftown.

Claiming to be tainted with depictions of “unscrupulous dealings and even criminal conduct,” the federal and state recognized Indian Nation has hit the CBS-owned premium cabler and EPs Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Andrew Ross Sorkin with a three claim complaint that they want to see go to a jury trial.

“Defendants did not obtain Plaintiffs’ permission to use the Cayuga Nation’s or Clint Halftown’s name or likeness in their television show, nor did they even communicate any intention to do so in advance of producing or airing the episode,” says the unspecified-damages-seeking suit steaming out of the Season 4 May 5, 2019 “Fight Night” episode that name checked the Iroquois members specifically and has a tribal leader named Jane Halftown who rolls some pretty dirty political dice. “Moreover, Defendants could have easily settled upon fictitious names for the characters in this show but, instead, chose to use Plaintiffs’ actual names,” the Empire State court Barclay Damon LLP filed paperwork adds (read a slightly redacted version here.)

“Among the offensive and defamatory characterizations of the Cayuga Nation and Mr. Halftown put forth in this episode of Billions are: an illegal casino land deal, participation in bribery of a public official, and a resort to blackmail, all of which are patently offensive and defamatory,” notes the 15-page complaint from the distinctly non-casino owning Cayuga. The plaintiffs also want to see any reference to the Nation and Halftown removed and never repeated on the show.

“The offense and reputational damage to the Nation and Mr. Halftown caused by the Defendants, whose sole goal was to earn millions at the Plaintiffs’ expense, forms the basis for this action.”

Contacted by Deadline, Showtime had no comment at present on the August 13 filed complaint or its allegations.

The pivotal episode in question unveiled that the wealthy and repeatedly self-interested Jeffrey DeMunn portrayed father of now New York Attorney General Chuck Rhodes (Paul Giamatti) wants to pull some strings with “my Indians,” as the senior Rhodes cringingly calls the Cayuga, to help his eldest offspring score some traction in his war with the federal Attorney General – who has more than a little Jeff Sessions in him, I might add.

I also note that Chuck is the senior Rhodes’ eldest offspring as the “Fight Club” episode revealed too that the latter had fathered a child with a Cayuga woman.

Led by Giamatti and Damien Lewis, Billions is the most watched series overall on the soon to be Viacom controlled Showtime. The series was renewed for a fifth season three days after the “Fight Club” episode aired.

How this particular legal action ends up will be a roll of other dice as Showtime’s parent company CBS and Viacom jump through the required regulatory hoops to seal their just announced reunification.

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