SVU, Episode 10.20
Production number:
First aired: 5 May 2009
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
th of 476 released in SVU
  th of 1229 released in all  
Cragen Huang and Judge Marsden
Written By
Jonathan Greene

Directed By
Peter Leto


Kim Garnet is found brutally beaten after she sends out nude photos of herself via text message. Detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler pay a visit to Kim's boyfriend, Steve Walker, but eventually learn that he is not the only recipient of the nude photos. However, after Counselor Samantha Copeland demands that Benson arrest Kim for producing and distributing child pornography, Kim must face the possibility of lifelong consequences. When Benson brings in Kathleen Stabler to try to convince Kim, Kim finally reveals her boyfriend drove her to do it. With the truth revealed, Copeland plans to drop the case. Judge Hilda Marsden, however, not only refuses the request, but convicts Kim on the spot (not even bothering to allow closing arguments) and hands down a shockingly harsh sentence: one year at a juvenile sex offender facility in Wellsburg, Ohio.

Benson and Pond become so upset by the sentence (and the way Marsden ran her court) that they privately investigate her. Copeland, while equally horrified, refused to join in for fear it could ruin her career. While searching for Marsden's judicial records, the lead clerk, Ed Mangini, alerts Marsden of their presence, and she proceeds to imprison both on made-up contempt citations (Benson for "mocking" her in an explicitly off-the-record conversation, Pond simply for pointing that the judge had no right to so). Much to their surprise, when Cragen arrives to release them, he brings Copeland along. Upon hearing of the arrest, the ADA, convinced by Marsden's behavior that she must have something to hide, had looked up the records herself, and discovered just what Mardsen couldn't let the detective and attorney see: she would target teenagers who had committed minor offences (urinating in public, public lewdness, etc.), turn the offence into a felony sex offence, and ship them off to the Wellsburg facility.

Though Cragen points out that, while harsh, such punishments are with her discretion, and locking up Benson and Pond to stop them from seeing her records (especially coming from someone who self-righteously boasts about her sentencing, had left them every bit as disgusted as they had been by the sentence itself), along with the clerk tipping her off, suggests something more sinister. Mangini is quickly arrested, and confesses the truth: Marsden's docket is rigged to include the "right" cases, as she gets a commission on everyone she sends to the Wellsburg facility, which her cousin runs. Later that day, Stabler, posing as a father whose daughter's boyfriend took his car on a joyride and totaled it, bribes Marsden to harshly punish the teen. Finally, the next day, with Kim's friend Ethan playing the unfortunate "defendant", Copeland playing prosecutor, Huang playing defense attorney, and Cragen the defendant's father, Marsden is brought to justice for her own criminal acts. Another judge overturns Kim's conviction and even wipes her record clean like it never happened so she can start anew. Marsden gets arrested for false imprisonment, bribery, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and other crimes she committed after an argument.


Episode summary


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast


  • People v. Bimonte


Ryan: Yeah. In other words, Stuckey's wasting our time again.


Stabler: (To Rick) Because you're a lover, not a fighter, huh, champ?
Rick: Exactly.


Benson: You wanted to see me, Your Honor?
Judge Marsden: Yes. Are you representing Detective Benson, Ms. Pond?
Pond: Does she need representation?
Judge Marsden: Of course not. We're off the record. Join the party, Counselor...Why the sudden interest in me?
Pond: (To Olivia) You don't have to answer that.
Judge Marsden: Nobody's under oath. It's just a friendly chat.
Benson: (Shrugged) That's funny, because it doesn't feel so friendly.
Judge Marsden: No reason to be cute, Detective. Now, tell me. Why are you so hot for my sentencing stats just hours after I sent your child pornographer away?


Benson: (To Marsden) She's not a sex offender, and you're ruining her life.
Judge Marsden: You know, I am so tired of these kids waltzing in here thinking they can do whatever the hell they want and get away with it. Someone has to take a stand.
Benson: Is that it? Or do you just get off on the power?
Ms. Pond: Olivia...
Judge Marsden: Mock me again, Olivia, and I'll hold you in contempt.
Benson: How? I thought this was just a friendly chat.
Judge Marsden: That's it.
Pond: Your Honor, you don't have the authority to sanction Detective Benson...
Judge Marsden: Watch this. Officer? Take Detective Benson - and Ms. Pond - down to the lockup; they're in contempt.


Benson: What are you waiting for? Spring us.
Cragen: After I`m done savouring the moment.
Pond: This is your boss?
Benson: Yeah, he's very supportive.


Benson: We didn't get our phone call - how did you know we were here?
Cragen: Sam called...
Benson: Wow, word travels fast...
Copeland: Especially when you're asking questions about Judge Marsden.
Pond: I thought you didn't want to cross her, 'cause this'll put you in the line of fire...
Copeland: At least I'll be in good company...I pulled up her stats off our database: I think I found what she doesn't want you to see!


Pond: She's taking minor offenses and turning them into felonies!
Cragen: So, Marsden's a hanging judge - she's harsh, but it's all within her discretion...
Benson: Then why did she lock us up for asking about her records?
Pond: And Why did Ed Mangini tip her off?


Mangini: What do you think you're doing? Get off the car!
Stabler: Nice wheels!...Rental?
Mangini: Please...I own it.
Stabler: Yeah? Pretty pricey for a government hack...
Mangini: I don't have to explain myself to you!
Stabler: You know, (flashes badge) actually, you do...You ratted out my partner to Judge Marsden.


Judge Marsden: Officer, take the respondent into custody...We're adjourned. (slams gavel)
Stabler: The only one going into custody is you.
Judge Marsden: (Incredulous) What the hell is this?!
Copeland: The end of a nightmare for hundreds of kids...
Stabler: (To Marsden) Hilda Marsden; you are under arrest for bribery, official misconduct, and false imprisonment...
Huang: Plus, federal charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States...
Stabler: (as he slaps on the handcuffs) You have the right to remain silent
Judge Marsden: I know my rights. I'm a judge!

Background information and notes

  • The episode is ripped from the headlines of a number of stories. The nude photos being leaked is based on the nude photos of actress Vanessa Hudgens that surfaced online in 2007. The abusive relationship centering around the leaked nude photos is based on the domestic violence scandal involving Chris Brown and Rihanna. Judge Marsden's actions were based on Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan, two Pennsylvania judges who were found to have taken bribes to sentence teens charged with relatively minor offenses to lengthy stays at privately run youth detention centers.
  • There is no town in Ohio named Wellsburg. However, there is a Wellsburg, West Virginia, located in the state's nothern panhandle, just across the state line from Ohio. 

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4

Mick's Gym
21 West 24th Street
Tuesday, April 21

Preparatory School
58 West 67th Street
Wednesday, April 22

Mercy General Hospital
365 West 32nd Street
Wednesday, April 22

Chambers of
Judge Hilda Marsden
Friday, April 24

5 6 7

Family Court
Monday, April 27

Family Court
Office of the Clerk
Tuesday, April 28

Family Court
Thursday, April 30

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