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A mother and her young daughter trot across the park, trying to get back to their car before the meter expires. They pass two men playing chess, one taunting the other. Then the mother screams. Her car is driving away, and she's holding onto the driver's side door -- someone is carjacking it. She loses her grip and tumbles onto the street; the car, the driver, and her daughter -- still inside -- speed away.
Green arrives at the scene and asks where the sergeant is. One officer points him in the sergeant's direction, and another says he thought Green was still on desk duty after being shot. Green says that he's back on the beat, and goes to find the sergeant. The sergeant reports that the girl's name is Jennifer Clark and the abduction was probably accidental; the man probably didn't even see Clark in the back seat. Green hypothesizes that the man was fleeing another crime, but the sergeant says that no other crimes were reported in the area. The mother, Denise, gave a vague description of the criminal; he was a white man in a blue jacket. Green tells the sergeant to continue with the canvas to see if anyone knew the criminal.
One of the chess players tells Fontana that the carjacker wasn't a regular. He doesn't know anything else. Fontana and Green approach Denise, who is having trouble talking and is crying. She says that Mr. Clark is out of town. Fontana asks her to describe what happened; Denise had just strapped Jennifer in when the attacker dragged her out of the car by her hair and drove off. The sergeant calls the cops back over and says the car was found.
At the scene of the abandoned car, Fontana and Green look in the abandoned car. Jennifer's car seat straps are cut, and there's no sign of Jennifer or the attacker. Green points out that the man took the girl but left the car -- now the crime appears to be a kidnapping, not a carjacking.
Van Buren and Green talk about the case. Green says they still don't really know anything. Van Buren tells Green to look for whatever vehicle the man took after he dropped off the stolen car.
"I doubt he hailed a cab."—Anita Van Buren
Van Buren wonders if the child was targeted. Green says it's possible, since the mother followed a routine and went through the park at the same time every day, but doubts that there will be a ransom request, since the Clark's have little money. Van Buren says to make sure that the father, Jimmy Clark, didn't do this as part of some custody issue. She wonders where Fontana is; Green says that he's looking over surveillance tapes. An officer calls over that Captain Donald Cragen, who is in charge of the Special Victims Unit (which deals mostly with sex crimes) is looking for her; Van Buren says that she's keeping SVU in the loop, since the girl might have been kidnapped for sexual purposes.
At Delgado's market, Fontana asks how accurate the times on the surveillance tapes are.
"More or less.""Well, is it more or is it less?"
—Clerk and Joe Fontana
Green comes by and asks how it's going, and Fontana says that he doesn't have anything yet -- one person might have seen the girl, but her English and Fontana's Spanish are both poor. On the tape, Fontana and Green see a guy walking by holding a girl. They say they'll show a print to Denise Clark.
Denise says she never heard the guy. She says that she should have fought him harder, and the cops reassure her that it isn't her fault. She wonders if Jimmy put the guy up to it, and adds that they're divorced. She admits that she didn't really tell him that Jennifer was kidnapped. Green asks if there's a custody fight; she says there was -- they had an arrangement, but after Jimmy cut off child support, she wouldn't let him see Jennifer anymore.
At Jimmy's workplace, a loading dock, the cops ask a man in a forklift where Jimmy is. He first lies that Jimmy stayed home that day, but when pressed points them towards Clark. Clark sees them and takes off running through the dock. Green chases Clark while Fontana circles around, and Green drives Jimmy straight into Fontana.
"I didn't do nothing!""You run pretty fast for somebody who didn't do nothing!"
—Jimmy Clark and Ed Green
He has an alibi, saying that his time card puts him at work since noon. He thinks the cops were after him for skipping a drunk driving court date. He doesn't know the man in the surveillance photo, and he looks horrified when he learns the truth. He insists he had nothing to do with the abduction. He still says that he doesn't know the man in the photo.
Van Buren asks what the cops think; Fontana says that Jimmy is a jerk but innocent. Green says they're pulling mug shots from all white males who are registered sex offenders and are checking them against the photo; they're also sending the photo city-wide. Van Buren says that they're going to release the photo to the press. Green and Fontana look upset, thinking that this means they're conceding defeat, but Van Buren points out how little evidence they have. The cops protest; Green saying that they'll waste time on bogus tips and Fontana worrying that the perpetrator will panic and kill Jennifer.
"Lieutenant, I've worked on cases like this before. All you're gonna do is provoke him.""No. I'm throwing everything we've got against the wall to find this kid."
—Joe Fontana and Anita Van Buren
Fontana says that this is a big mistake, and Van Buren says that it's on her. Green tries to placate Fontana, but he's unmoved. Another officer comes in and says that a patrolman from another precinct recognized the photo as that of a man he arrested last year for shoplifting. The cops leave to track down this lead.
Agatha Jacobs lets the cops into her house and asks what her son, Dwight, did now. The cops say only that Dwight might have information about an investigation. Agatha grumbles about being woken up at 1 in the morning. She doesn't know where Dwight is; he hasn't shown up in a few months. She doesn't know where he lives or what his phone number is; they aren't close. She does admit that he has a girlfriend named Charlene. Agatha says that Dwight's a criminal and a bad person; she points to a box of powdered eggs and says that getting those were the only nice thing he ever did for her. Green reads the box and sees that it comes from a public school.
An employee at the school says that they hired a 'Dan Jacobson' after two other cooks quit, and adds that he passed a background check. She says that he was fired three weeks ago for stealing food. She says that she didn't hear anything about Jacobs molesting the children. When she goes to get his records she says that she should call the Superintendent, but the cops say that there's no need to wake him up.
"Besides that, we're authorized."—Joe Fontana
She gets Jacobs's file. The address in the file is bogus, but the school employee says that he gave a different mailing address to the school when he was asking for his paycheck.
A heavily armed police team approaches the apartment. Green says that the super rented the apartment to a Charlene Dowd (Dwight's girlfriend). The cops burst in and grab Dwight as he tries to go out the window. He claims not to know anything about Jennifer Clark, but the cops find muddy boots and Jennifer's shirt -- with blood on it.
In interrogation, Dwight claims not to know anything. He says that the man in the photo isn't him, and claims that the cops planted the dress in his apartment. His alibi is that he was walking by the river; that's how his boots got muddy. When they accuse him of murder, Dwight asks for a lawyer. The cops refuse. Then Van Buren and Borgia come in. Green says they aren't done, but Van Buren cancels the interrogation. Fontana and Green both look defeated.
Fontana chews out Van Buren for letting Borgia call off the interrogation, and then he and Green leave. Borgia says they'll book Jacobs for kidnapping, and add murder later. Van Buren says they're releasing the photo to the press; hopefully someone will find her.
McCoy asks Borgia how the arrangement went; she says that Jacobs was remanded. A man named Charles Graham was assigned to Jacobs's defense; McCoy knows Graham and thinks that they'll be able to work with him. Borgia says they can prosecute Jacobs for felony murder based on the bloody dress. She points out that Jacobs is their best hope for finding Jennifer; McCoy says that, if Graham can get Jacobs to cooperate, they'll offer a deal.
Borgia and Graham talk. Graham says that he realizes that Jacobs should take the deal, but doubts that Jacobs will go along with it. Borgia says that they'll only charge Jacobs with kidnapping if Jennifer Clark is alive; even if she's dead, they'll still give him a better sentence if he tells them where the body is. Graham says that Jacobs is a perpetual inmate and knows how to work the system; he won't rush to any deals. He says he'll keep trying to talk Jacobs into making the deal.
At the precinct, Fontana takes a call from the tip line placing Jenny in Harlem; Green has another tip placing her in Georgia. Fontana thinks that it's pointless, and Green is more hopeful. He suggests doing another canvas of Jacobs's apartment, and Fontana says they should look for Charlene. He's resentful that they're answering phones and not doing 'real police work.' Then Van Buren comes in. A body washed up on the East River.
A cop leads Fontana and Green to the body, which is wrapped in a trash bag. Fontana recalls Jacobs admitting to going by the river. Green examines the bag and finds that a doll is inside, not a body.
"Some sick son of a bitch!"—Ed Green
The officer who led Fontana and Green to the bundle apologizes. Green yells at two other cops for laughing about it. Fontana is more optimistic that Clark is alive now, but Green looks less hopeful.
Denise tells McCoy and Borgia about Jenny. She demands that they make Jacobs tell them where Jenny is.
"I don't care about his rights! Jenny is out there and I am not with her!"—Denise Clark
She begs them to give Jacobs whatever he wants in return for information about Jenny. She asks if Jacobs is a pedophile; the lawyers say they don't know.
In jail, McCoy threatens to Jacobs to add a charge of murder to the indictment by the end of the week. Graham says that Clark might be alive, but McCoy says he doubts it. He offers two concurrent 25-to-life sentences; Borgia says that parole is a possibility. Jacobs says that it's not much of a deal. Graham urges him to take it. Jacobs says that she might not be dead, and argues that a bloody dress doesn't prove murder. He says he'll claim that he didn't see Jennifer in the car when he carjacked it, and after dumping the car decided that he couldn't leave her in the bad neighborhood. He adds that he'll attribute the bloody dress to a bloody nose. Jacobs says that they'll never find her if they leave.
"You'll be back! I ain't finished."—Dwight Jacobs
Graham tells McCoy that Jacobs wants to drag out the case and hope it falls apart. Borgia gets a call as Graham asks if McCoy is confident that Jenny is dead. McCoy says that he is after the meeting. Then Borgia hangs up -- Fontana just reported something from Denise Clark's house.
At the house, the lawyers listen to a tape of Jenny calling Denise. She says that she wants to come home, and then a woman cuts the lady off. The phone was an untraceable stolen cell phone. The cops and McCoy theorize that the woman was Charlene. Denise cries that she only just missed the call, and is impervious to McCoy's attempts to reassure her.
Outside, McCoy wonders if Jacobs was behind this. Borgia says that they're monitoring Dwight's calls and he didn't call Charlene, but McCoy thinks that Dwight got a message out another way.
Jacobs says he wants a better deal. McCoy says he won't discuss terms until the girl is back. Graham says he wants to talk with Jacobs, but Jacobs says that he's getting three meals a day and a place to sleep, and he can get drugs and other contraband. He adds that Jennifer is captive in unpleasant circumstances, and says that he'll only tell where the girl is if both he and Charlene can go free.
"You can't use extortion to walk out of prison, Mr. Jacobs."—Jack McCoy
Jacobs blows this off, and says that Jennifer won't be willing to wait as long as he will.
McCoy and Rubirosa find Branch at a restaurant. They tell him what's going on. Branch worries that the press might get wind of this, and Borgia points out that Jacobs could leak it himself. McCoy says they probably can't even legally give Jacobs what he wants, and precedent says that deals like this are unenforceable, meaning Graham won't sign on. Branch asks about the precedent, and McCoy says that a prior case in which a killer promised to spare his victim in exchange for a plea; the plea was voided after the victim was found dead. Borgia says that the killer there knew the victim was dead the whole time; that isn't the case here. McCoy says that doesn't matter, but Borgia says that it should. Branch says that they need to stall Jacobs in the hopes of convincing Charlene to leave the girl alive.
Green tells Van Buren that a neighbor of Charlene's reported a stolen car; the car went missing shortly before the crime and Charlene had borrowed the car before. She may have made a spare set of keys for Jacobs. They discuss Charlene's history; she's committed several minor crimes, then culminated in a seven-month jail sentence for assault. Charlene is bipolar, off her meds most of the time, and addicted to crystal meth. Fontana says he wishes that he could just beat Jacobs up until he gave up the girl's location. Green agrees with him. Van Buren says to find the car.
Cops arrive at a garage, where a truck driver saw the car (a description was released to the public) and reported it. The driver saw her flee into the subway, but she didn't have the girl. The cops find catalogues and bills belonging to the real owner of the car, but also a business card belonging to Charlie Graham.
Graham protests that he didn't know Charlene was involved. McCoy mocks Graham for believing Jacobs that Charlene was uninvolved, but Graham points out that he's Jacobs's lawyer. He, like McCoy, thought Jenny was dead. He won't say anything about the meeting, citing attorney-client privilege, and snaps that McCoy has committed much more serious ethical violations. McCoy disagrees. Graham says that he wants to find Clark, but still has to defend Jacobs, and adds that he'll swear under oath that he has no useful information. He won't even say if he met Charlene again. After he leaves, McCoy asks who the next judge on rotation is; Borgia says that it's Deidre Hellstrom. McCoy says nothing. Borgia argues that Hellstrom, an ex-Legal Aid lawyer for defendants who can't afford their own attorneys, is generally biased towards the defense, but McCoy says they have no choice and he'll move to have Graham disqualified.
Graham argues that he's upholding his ethical obligations to the bar and his client. McCoy says that Graham is obligated to reveal ongoing criminal activity. Graham says that he doesn't know where Jennifer is and is just protecting Jacobs's interests. They argue. Hellstrom complains that Jacobs won't get a fair trial because the media has gotten involved and denounced Jacobs, but McCoy says that the media was just used to get the public involved to find Jennifer. Hellstrom wonders if McCoy is more worried about finding Jennifer or getting Branch reelected. McCoy says that it's irrelevant, but Hellstrom denounces McCoy's argument -- the conversations with Graham are only not privileged if Charlene is conspiring with Jacobs, and there's no proof of that yet. She says that, without evidence, she can't grant the motion. McCoy protests that there's no time, but Hellstrom insists that the crisis does not allow McCoy to break the rules. After the ruling, McCoy says he wants Graham arrested as an accomplice.
In interrogation, Graham yells at Borgia. He says that he won't help send Jacobs to prison; it would cost his reputation and license. Borgia threatens to have him prosecuted, but Graham rejects this.
"You couldn't make a case for that if you tried. You go to Hell. Tell McCoy to do the same."—Charlie Graham
Outside, Van Buren asks what to do. Borgia acknowledges that they have no case, and says the should release Graham in a couple of hours. Green comes in with Graham's cell phone records; he got two calls the night before from a motel in Queens. The calls came right after the delivery truck spotted her car.
At the motel room, Fontana and Green have the hotel manager let them inside. The cops search the place. Blood is spattered all over the walls, and Charlene's body is next to the bed.
Assistant Medical Examiner Waxman says that Charlene died from three stab wounds at about midnight. An officer says that Jennifer isn't anywhere in the motel. The cops wonder who Charlene was meeting. Then a CSU tech shows them a bloody fingerprint on the sink.
Fontana and Green stand outside an apartment door as Fontana yells that there's a gas leak and the occupant needs to evacuate. No one goes outside, so Green kicks the door in. The cops slam the occupant, Bernard Heinz, against a wall. After a few protests that he doesn't know anything, Green points out that he's a registered sex offender and they found his print at Charlene's room. Fontana squeezes a wound on Heinz's hand and demands to know how he got it. With his gun at Heinz's head, Green demands to know where Jennifer is. Heinz cracks and says that the girl wasn't there. He claims that Charlene attacked him when he arrived; he was supposed to meet Jacobs but instead found Charlene, who had a knife. Fontana asks why he was meeting Jacobs, and Heinz says that he inherited some money and ran into Jacobs, who knew that Heinz was in jail for sexual assaults on small children. He says that Jacobs wanted to sell him 'something,' and said that Heinz wouldn't say no. He and Jacobs made arrangements to meet up, but Heinz just found Charlene, who wanted to kill him for his money to get Jacobs out of prison. He insists that he acted in self defense and has no idea where Charlene is.
Borgia tells Jacobs that Charlene got killed by Heinz.
"Dumb bitch. She couldn't do nothin' right."—Dwight Jacobs
He says that he'll only talk when he gets an agreement that he won't go to jail. McCoy wants to know Jennifer's location first, but Jacobs refuses.
Jacobs's new attorney, Margot Bell leaves with the lawyers. Borgia says they must make the deal. Bell says she won't sign off on a deal that can't be enforced. McCoy argues that the deal in the precedent case was voided because the deal was challenged by the prosecutor before sentencing; McCoy says they'll promise not to challenge it. Bell doesn't believe McCoy, saying that once Jennifer is found, Branch could easily change his mind and void the deal.
Later, Branch says that Bell is right -- he would void the deal. He says that it would be a disaster to let Jacobs extort his way out of jail, and would set terrible precedent. While letting Jennifer die is tragic, the bigger picture demands that they not make the deal. McCoy disagrees.
"We're in a situation that the law is inadequate to address."—Jack McCoy
Branch yells that, if they make this deal, and all others involving hostages, the state is doomed. McCoy retorts that if they don't make the deal they're culpable in Jennifer Clark's murder. Branch says they have no choice, and they don't negotiate with people like Jacobs.
McCoy finds Bell and says that they'll make the deal. Bell is skeptical that Branch agreed, but McCoy says that's his problem. Bell still doubts that the deal is legitimate, so McCoy says that he'll move for immediate sentencing after the allocution; there will be no opportunity to challenge the plea. Bell warns McCoy that this will hurt McCoy, but agrees to the deal.
Branch talks to Hellstrom over a meal. Hellstrom says that the rules prevent them from talking about Jacobs, so Branch says they're just speaking in hypotheticals. Hellstrom says that, hypothetically, she'll do right by the law. Branch says that Hellstrom can void McCoy's plea herself, but Hellstrom says that she's not in the habit of voiding legal pleas. Branch says that accepting the plea will hurt him politically, and threatens Hellstrom by saying that she'd look bad if it got out that she let a criminal like Jacobs walk free. Hellstrom says that she's appointed, and doesn't need to run for reelection. Branch says that the person who appointed Hellstrom is running for reelection, but Hellstrom just says that, if Branch doesn't want to make the deal, he should reign McCoy in. She won't commit to throwing out the deal.
"I stand corrected. Doing the right thing, that'd, obviously, be improper."—Arthur Branch
At allocution, Hellstrom confirms that Jacobs is pleading guilty to kidnapping. She asks him to tell the court what happened; he admits to kidnapping Clark to sell her to Heinz for $2000. At that point, Hellstrom cuts off the allocution. She demands to know where Jennifer is. Jacobs pauses, then says that Jennifer Clark is at his mother's, Agatha's. She's in the garage.
The cops burst into the garage. Fontana hears noises and the cops pry open a large hope chest. They find Jennifer inside, alive.
"I wanna go home.""I'm gonna take you home, sweetheart."
—Jennifer Clark and Ed Green
Fontana calls Borgia, saying that Jennifer is alive. Borgia reports this to the court. Hellstrom says that she sees that the recommendation is for no jail time. Hellstrom pauses, then voids the plea.
"Mr. Jacobs, this negotiated arrangement with the people is something I find contrary to the interests of justice. A child, taken by you against her will, returned by you to her lawful custodian, in exchange for your freedom, is an agreement against public policy."—Deidre Hellstrom
She sentences him to the maximum sentence. Bell withdraws the guilty plea. Jacobs complains that they had a deal, but Hellstrom says that the deal wasn't with her. He attempts to attack McCoy, and Hellstrom orders the bailiffs to remove Jacobs.
Branch asks McCoy if he really thought he could get away with it. McCoy says that it was a risk, and that Branch could have stopped it. Branch points out that publicly stopping the deal would ruin his political chances. McCoy says that all that matters is Jennifer being okay. Branch argues that there's more to consider than just that.
"If that were true, Arthur, the law wouldn't mean much to me or anyone else."—Jack McCoy
Branch says that the office's integrity has been compromised. McCoy says all Branch cared about was the political fallout. He tells Branch that he (Branch) can fire him if he wants, but he won't apologize. Branch only states that Jack just doesn't get it.
"You know, you're a great prosecutor, but you'll never be a District Attorney."—Arthur Branch
- Note: Detective Ed Green returns to the show
- Hilarious in Hindsight: Branch's comment that Jack will never be a District Attorney. Two seasons later, Jack got the job.
- Smug Snake: Dwight Jacobs