Thursday, February 12, 2009

Law & Order “Crimebusters” Busts the Prosecution (Recap & Review)

All Images from NBC

In this episode of Law & Order (NBC) we get a case that is hampered by an amateur crimebusting group, an amateur criminal psychologist, and what looks like an amateur prosecution. But in this case, try as hard as they may, the evidence just isn’t falling into the right places at the right time, and the DA’s office has to back away from prosecuting anybody. It was bound to happen – not every case can be won by the prosecution. But I would imagine that it’s just as hard to abandon a case as it is to outright lose a case – even though Cutter and Rubirosa look slightly relieved as Jack makes the decision to walk away from it.

We are also treated to a mention of the venerable Adam Schiff, whose name – but not his face – comes out of hiding to endorse Jack McCoy in his campaign for the DA’s office. It is interesting to see Jack getting a tough case handed to his office just at the time that he’s trying to make everything look good. I suppose it is payback for all the grief he gave Schiff when Schiff was running for office and Jack wanted to go off and do things his own way. I also wonder if Cutter’s job is in trouble, seeing that Jack seems to chastise him every chance he gets. In this episode, Jack openly calls Cutter out for his antics. It could be that he is trying to get Cutter to clean up his act in the event Jack (gasp) loses the election, that Cutter’s record won’t get him fired by Jack’s replacement. I also sense that we are in for some interesting drama as the election looms.

As far as the case, I knew the minute that the amateurs got involved that the case was going to be muddy. Funny, while the amateurs hurt the case, Cutter wasn’t opposed to using them to dig up some dirt on one of the suspects. It was a winning episode for the defense lawyers, who had a field day with the sloppiness of the investigation and the fact that normal, everyday people trying to do good just made things worse. I suspect that people involved in fighting crime as their job on a daily basis hate all the armchair criminologists that are out there. Personally, I think that television has done more to educate people in a good way about fighting crime, and maybe some people do take it a little too far. Still, I for one am glad that TV crime shows has made me a little smarter on the issue, it forces our law enforcement professionals to do even better in their jobs.

Here’s the recap:

A woman is at an Army recruiting center hearing all kinds of yelling and banging noises. She is trying to quiet her baby. She hears breaking glass, and turns around. Later, at the scene of what seems to be a fire and explosion, Detectives Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Bernard (Anthony Anderson) are inspecting the scene. The arson squad found what was left of a can of butane. A female, mid-20s was found on the scene, someone saw her and pulled her out. She had no ID. Sgt. Rodney James, who runs the recruiting center, approaches the detectives and asks where is Carly, his buddy’s wife. She was staying there overnight, and had her baby Mikey with her. He asks if they say the baby, and the detectives glance at each other, and then inside the burned building.

Later, Sgt. James said that Carly came in from Pennsylvania and had no money so he let her and the baby stay there for the night and rest before she got back on the bus in the morning. She came to the city because her husband Mike is MIA in Afghanistan and she thinks the army is not doing enough to find him. She wanted to talk to someone in his group at the VA – she just wants some answers. They get threats all the time. They day before, they had “Megaphone Bob” who reads off the name of war casualties. He has to stay away from the entrance but he managed to get inside yesterday and they flagged down a patrol car to clear him out. A police officer tells the detectives they now have the OK to talk to Carly.

At St. Michael’s Hospital, Carly DiGravia (Mackenzie Mauzy) is upset about her baby. She says God took her baby. She recalls that she was in the back room with Mikey, trying to get him to sleep. “Drunks” had been banging on the door and yelling all night. She heard the glass break and she left Mikey on the cot to go see. Then the air exploded and she tried to find Mikey but could not, with the smoke. She couldn’t see who they were. When Bernard asks if there is any family they can call, she says she wants her husband, he’s in Afghanistan, “just ask the Army.”

Back at the 2-7, Bernard is reviewing the case with Lt. Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson). She thinks the media is going to be all over it. She asks about the status of Megaphone Bob, and he says that the officers called to the scene the day before did not arrest him, they got his address but they weren’t valid. Van Buren tells Bernard and Lupo to check with the local precinct to see if there were any other problems with him and to do a news search to see if they can find anything on his protests. Lupo finds a comment on an on-line news article on the matter and it seems like someone may have witnessed some of the crime and was in the area with a video camera. Van Buren tells them they need to see the video.

Later, at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, they speak with the couple. They are teachers in Philadelphia, but they are filmmakers too. They watch the video, and Bernard slows it down to see someone on a bike with what looks like a brick in his hand. They take the video back to the 2-7, and Van Buren tells them the Chief of D’s sent over two woman to volunteer on the case.

The two women state they are from Operation Molly, they are “web sleuths” that use the Internet to help solve crimes like these. Van Buren tells them they are releasing a photo of a suspect today to get the public involved in helping ID him, and she tells them to call her about anything they find, and everything is “hands off.” They agree. Lupo and Bernard mumble about it as they leave the room, and another detective brings them a copy of a Times article on Megaphone Bob. His name is Bob Tavish, with a few unlawful assembly complaints from Seattle. He was on a short list of suspects for an arson in a condo project.

Later, they question Bob Tavish as he is locking up his bike. They check out his bike, and they tell him they know about the fact that Seattle is looking for him. He denies bombing the center. He said a guy came up to him yesterday at the center, his sister was killed in Iraq. He said she enlisted at the center, and he wanted to make sure she was on his casualties list. He name was Linda Sherman, and her name was not on his list.

The detectives go to the home of Derek Sherman, who is outside yelling at the two woman from Operation Molly who says they have a right to search his garbage. The detectives tell them to break it up, and a woman says he has some bricks in his garbage. Lupo asks to see it. Bernard takes Derek out back, and Lupo tells the women that they couldn’t search his trash until he put it on the sidewalk. They say they were able to identify him from his Panthers sweatshirt from their clothing identification and it was easy to track him from that. Lupo reminds them they were supposed to clear everything with them, and one woman argues the detective’s investigation was too slow. He tells them the bricks are now tainted as evidence and he tells them to back off. In the back, Bernard is talking to Derek, who denies firebombing the location. He says he was there and did see Megaphone Bob and said he wanted to be sure he had his sister’s name. Bernard thanks him for what his sister did for the country, but says he has to ask for his whereabouts and the time of the crime. He says he was at McMullen’s tavern, and he is a regular there. He wants them to keep the crazies away from him.

The detectives are at the Army records room, and they are told by a man working there that Sherman came in a few times, drunk, to ask about his sister. He also talked to Carly the day before. He also refers to the Carly and her husband as “Coal Crackers” which is what Mike said meant they didn’t want to follow their families into working or the mines. They find that Carly’s father in law is someone who sets off the explosions in the coal mines, and the detectives speculate that Carly had access to the blasting caps and the fact that she wanted them to now find her husband may be the motive for the explosion.

Back at the 2-7 speaking with “Leonard” who seems to be an expert on the explosives, he explains how the bomb cold have been made. They focus on Carly, Megaphone Bob, and Derek. Bernard argues that the sweatshirt and the bike implicate Derek, but Lupo says he had no access to blasting caps. Bernard asks what Lupo’s problem is with the girl, and Lupo says his problem is Bernard is ruling her out. Van Buren calls for a time out, and tells them to find out if Derek had access to the blasting caps, and to check with the Pennsylvania police to find out what kind of blasting caps Carly’s father would use.

Later, back at the hospital talking with Carly, she explains to Van Buren and the detectives the circumstances of her husband’s disappearance, and that when the troop was ambushed they came back without him. The VA hospital said no one saw Mike get shot. No one is paying attention to her, but they are paying attention now. Van Buren presses her and says no one will blame her, but Carly says “blame me for what?” She asks them to hand her a tote box filled with mail from people, and there is also a sweatshirt form Operation Molly, who she says is helping to solve the crime. It has her picture on a T-shirt. Van Buren tells her to stay there for a few days after she gets out of the hospital, and seems happy when Van Buren tells her they will put her up in a hotel. Carly looks at the image of herself on the sweatshirt and wonders if people will recognize her. Outside the hospital room, Lupo comments that Carly never mentioned the baby. Van Buren wonders if she just can’t deal yet with the death of her baby.

At the Veterans Hospital, they talk to a man who was in Mike’s group when he went missing. He didn’t expect Carly to show up with the baby, and as long as her husband was MIA she could continue to collect Mike salary from the Army – “embrace the suck and take the bucks” and make her piece with it. Carly said it wasn’t about the money, and that Carly had a temper. Bernard gets a call, and it’s Derek. He tells him not to do anything and they will be right there. He tells Lupo that Operation Molly struck again.

On the street, Derek is showing them his mangled bike. He got called to make a delivery and someone was waiting and purposely knocked him off his bike. Someone also broke into his house and took his backpack and called him a baby killer. He points them out as being in a van nearby, one of the other delivery guys took the van’s keys out of the ignition so they could not flee. Lupo and Bernard approach the van, and asks “Gus” for the keys, so he turns them over. Bernard tells the two occupants to step out of the vehicle, an man and a woman, one of the Operation Molly woman. She says she took the backpack as evidence. Bernard demands the backpack, she gives it to him, and Bernard says it is stolen property and it is going into evidence. They arrest the couple for assault and robbery.

Back at the 2-7, Van Buren is having a conniption with the other Operation Molly lady. Van Buren says what they did was unacceptable, and the woman apologizes. Van Buren says their work has to stop now, and that was an order. She will arrest them if they interfere again, and the woman balks. Van Buren says “You don’t wanna try me.” Bernard knocks on the window to get Van Buren’s attention. He tells Van Buren and Lupo that the lab found traces of butane in the backpack, but Lupo thinks that won’t do any good, since the amateur “crimebusters” had the backpack in their possession as well and a good lawyer could say they planted the butane. Van Buren says they have good lawyers too, and to arrest Derek. They arrest him for murder in arson.

At Derek’s arraignment, ADA Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza), he pleads not guilty and Rubirosa request remand. But the evidence and the fact that the “vigilantes” had their hands on it comes into play. One of the Operation Molly men takes Derek’s picture and the judge orders his phone confiscated. The judge remands Derek Sherman and there is light applause from the gallery. As things break up, the defense attorney Mr. Wilson says “These people put Trekkies to same” and hands Rubirosa a motion to suppress the backpack and bricks. She tells Wilson he has a baby killer for a client, and to “live long and prosper.”

Back at the DA’s office, Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) talks with EADA Cutter (Linus Roache) and Rubirosa, telling him he can't believe the police let the Operation Molly people near the case in the first place. She reminds him that they identified the person and found the evidence, which Cutter reminds her may be thrown out. McCoy tells them if any evidence falls out, to make a deal. Rubirosa seems surprised at a plea bargain for a death of the baby, and McCoy reminds her that no reasonable person could have anticipated that a woman and her baby would be allowed to spend the night in a recruitment center. As McCoy rushes into an elevator, Cutter remarks, “Nice fig leaf.” McCoy retorts, ‘It covers enough.”

In the chambers of Judge Noreen Morrison, Cutter argues with Wilson about the evidence. Rubirosa argues the Operation Molly people were warned to stay out of things, but the Wilson argues that chain of custody on the backpack is still an issue. The judge allows the backpack in, but the bricks are out. Cutter mumbles to Rubirosa, “Fig leaf anyone?”

Taking with Derek and Wilson in jail holding, he admits he threw the brick into the window but nothing else. Cutter warns him about what he may face with the jury, and Derek gets emotional about his sister death and says he would tell them about that on the stand. He comments about how his sister got put in a convoy with nothing but hillbilly armor to protect her. He says “screw this, and screw you” to Cutter and demands for the CO to open the gate.

Back in McCoy’s office, he is on the phone, saying, “You don’t know what this means to me, Adam. Alright. Good luck with Mr. Mugabe.” When he hangs up, Cutter questions, ‘Adam? Adam Schiff?” McCoy says “Yes, he’s in Africa with Jimmy Carter waiting for permission to enter Zimbabwe, he read about my candidacy on the internet of all places and just called to offer me his endorsement.” Cutter remarks, “So that’s where you’ve been getting your “let’s make a deal” advice.” Cutter tells him Sherman passed on a deal but admitted throwing the brick. Rubirosa enters and tells them that the Pennsylvania police say the blasting caps used for the bomb are the same as what Carly’s father uses.

At the Garlston Hotel, Van Buren and Rubirosa are talking with Carly. She is meeting a friend she just met in the lobby. Van Buren asks her to take a lie detector test to make sure she is telling the truth before the trial. Carly seems preoccupied with herself. Rubirosa says that what she says can’t be used as evidence and Carly gets wise that they are accusing her. She gets upset and denies any involvement and storms into the bathroom. Van Buren tells Rubirosa she will have the detectives head to Pennsylvania in the morning.

At the home of Carly’s husband’s father, Hank Di Gravia, he says that Carly leaves the baby with them on a regular basis, and sometimes says she will be gone for an hour and then leaves for a half a day. He says Carly is all about Carly. Lupo notices in a picture of Mike he has a few fingers missing on his right hand. Hank tells them Mike blew up a porta john with a blasting cap and butane and it blew up in his hand.

Back at the DA’s office, Cutter reviews the information with Rubirosa and McCoy. McCoy tells them to get on the same page with their suspects. Rubirosa notices that cay is on the front page of the Daily News web page, with a headline “Bomb Mom Gone Wild.’ Apparently the person who went barhopping with Carly the night before, Vicky Sandusky, said Carly admitted to the bombing because the Army treats the families of servicemen like dirt. McCoy tells them to talk to Sandusky and he will decide how to proceed.

Later, at Raoul’s Hair Salon, Vicky says she hung out at the hotel just to get to know Carly. She said she thought they arrested the wrong person so she wanted to do some “profiling.” Rubirosa says “Profiling. You work in a hair salon.” Vicky says she has amazing intuition. She says she is a walking Medea complex, and that she didn’t tell the newspaper everything. Carly told her she never wanted the baby, her husband wanted it to keep her on the straight and narrow while he was away. She had friends in Florida and she was going to move there and get a job on the beach. She recorded her on her phone and asks Rubirosa if she wants to hear it.

Later Rubirosa plays the recording for Van Buren, the detectives. and Cutter. Carly sounded drunk. They find that Carly also is checking out of the hotel, and Cutter says to arrest her and release Sherman, but Rubirosa asks if they should talk to Jack first. Cutter says McCoy is at a fundraiser announcing the Adam Schiff endorsement. Rubirosa says if they screw this up for him, there won’t be anything left to endorse. Cutter still tells them to go ahead, and Rubirosa is not pleased.

When they arrive at the hotel, a police officer is glad to see them. He says that a lady with the suitcase was trying to hail a cap when other people detained her. It’s the Operation Molly people, who said Carly was fleeing the jurisdiction. They arrest her while the Operation Molly people yell that she is a baby killer.

Elsewhere, McCoy exits the Law Offices Organization of New York Annual Award Gala, to speak to someone who had him called out of the room. He is shown a cell phone and after looking at the screen, angrily tells him to find Michael Cutter, and he doesn’t care if he has to drag him out of the bathtub, to tell him to be in his office in 20 minutes. He returns to the Gala.

Back at his office and livid, McCoy asks Cutter if he is trying to make things easier for (Governor) Shalvoy. He reminds Cutter what he told him, and says the case is now a minefield thanks to his arrest. He says he better have something good, and Cutter gives him the information about the recording. Now they have motive and evidence of flight. McCoy settles down, but when Cutter tells him not to worry, he’s covered, McCoy glares at him. He tells him to dismiss against Derek Sherman and to make a deal with Carly, quietly. When Cutter questions how that will look, McCoy says it’s better than the circus the trial would be. He adds, “And Mike, if Shalvoy’s hack wins this election, don’t for a second imagine you’ll get away with pulling half the crap you pull with me.”

At Rikers Island with Carly and her attorney Ms. Weller, Cutter and Rubirosa try to convince Carly to take a deal but Weller isn’t buying it. She also tells them to tell McCoy that from now until the election, she will nail this case to his forehead so when voters come across his name on the ballot all they will see is Carly’s grieving face. Cutter gives her a fake smile.

Back at the office, one of the Operation Molly women is asking why she would have to testify at Carly’s trial. Rubirosa tells her that Carly’s lawyer will, to try to prove Derek planted the bomb. Cutter adds they will ask her, under oath if she ever did anything like spray butane on the backpack. He then says it will be his turn to rip her story apart and attack her credibility and could face perjury unless she tells the truth now. She admits she did spray butane in his backpack.

At trial, Mike’s father is on the stand he testifies about Carly, and Weller questions him about an email he sent to Carly. He is questioning why Carly doesn’t seem sad over Mike’s death. Weller makes it sound like Di Gravia blamed Carly for Mike’s death, but he says he did not lie about his testimony.

The jury then hears Carly’s recording made by Vicky Sandusky., which makes Carly sound shallow and self-absorbed. On cross, Weller asks how many drinks Carly had when this was recorded, and Vicky said she wasn’t counting, but thinks maybe 8 or 9. As Vicky only had one drink, Weller makes if sound as if Vicky got Carly drunk on purpose to get her to talk. Vicky says Carly only talked about her needs, she is a narcissist. Weller says she’s quite the expert in criminal psychology, and she asks if she’s ever heard of posttraumatic stress syndrome. Vicky says it’s when people have a shock and it changes them, and Weller brings up the fire and explosion and Carly losing her child and husband. When Vicky says that the police had arrested someone else, Weller sarcastically questions, “The police had another suspect?” to which Cutter objects and is overruled. Carly explains about Derek Sherman, whose only problems are he sells marijuana and hash and his tendencies are non-violent. Weller asks if this is her “professional opinion” - as a hairdressers assistant, and says she has nothing further. Cutter and Rubirosa look troubled.

As Cutter and Rubirosa leave the courtroom, Rubirosa is concerned that Weller is scoring points but thinks she can’t pull it off unless Carly takes the stand. Cutter asks if she knew Sherman dealt drugs, and she said he was kicked out of college for a drug related offence but the records are sealed. He says he needs to talk to narcotics.

Later in the office, Cutter and Rubirosa have Derek and his attorney present. The attorney is angry they have been called in again. Cutter asks him if he knows his client dealt hash oil when he was in college, and Derek denies it. Cutter said their amateur crimebusters dug up some of this former customers. Butane is used to extract hash oil from hashish, and they caught Derek in his lie when he previously said he knew nothing about butane. Derek says he stopped dealing two years ago and he threw away all the butane. He swears he only threw the brick.

Later, in Cutter’s office, they go over the fact that McCoy supported originally dismissing against Derek because they couldn’t link him to the device. But now they can. But they can only link Derek to the butane, but they can link the butane and the caps to Carly, but that is through her father in law, who may be trying to get back at her. When Cutter looks at the picture of Carly and says it doesn’t look like a mother of someone who tried to save her baby from an inferno, Rubirosa reminds him that is not evidence. McCoy reminds them they have a trial in 15 minutes and they have to tell Carly’s lawyer about it.

Back in the courtroom, Weller argues that this puts Derek back in play. She asks the judge to introduce this to the jury, and she wants to call in witness. She asks for a few days and the just agrees. As Cutter and Rubirosa leave, Carly says she is sorry for her behavior. She just felt she was at the bottom of so much hurt. They walk away.

Later in McCoy’s office, Rubirosa thinks that after Weller finished putting Sherman ’ on trial” the jury will never convict Carly. Cutter asks for suggestions from McCoy. He picks up the phone and asks to be connected to the public information office. He speaks to someone called “Kate” and says he is going to be sending over a press release in an hour about the Army recruitment center bombing. When he hangs up the phone, he says he is sure Cutter can strip the flesh off Carly’s bones on cross, he doesn’t think they can ram a plea bargain down his throat now, he’s declining to prosecute either Derek or Carly because they can’t say which one is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Rubirosa says she can see the headlines now, “no justice for baby Mikey.” McCoy shrugs, and Cutter says, “You’re gonna take a lot of heat for this.” McCoy puts on his glasses, and says, “ I can live with that. So can you.” As Cutter and Rubirosa leave, McCoy goes back to work, and with his sigh, we fade to black.

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Aaron said...

Loved the Schiff connection, too bad Steven Hill couldn't/didn't guest star.

I also believe Mugabi is spelled Mugabe.

Lisa R. said...

I thought it was a great episode! I really like the Cutter/McCoy tension. They make the show for me! Too bad they couldn't prosecute someone. Sometimes they can't win them all...

All Things Law and Order said...

Aaron, you are right, I fixed the spelling!

samfan said...

I LOVED this episode! I wish someone would have gotten convicted, but this has been my favorite this season. It was so different then any other Law and Order shows even SVU and CI. I loved it. Great job ATL&O!!!