SVU, Episode 4.22
Production number: E3125
First aired: 25 April 2003
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
th of 476 released in SVU
  th of 1229 released in all  
Michael Gardner
Written By
Tara Butters & Michele Fazekas

Directed By
Alex Zakrzewski


The detectives of the SVU are frustrated by an accused rapist who manages to find ways to intimidate his victims.


The episode opens with the suspect Michael Gardner's arrest. Gardner maintains his innocence, while his lawyer points out that the evidence against him is circumstantial.

He is accused of raping four women. All four victims were strangled with a cord and cut across their chests. The only physical evidence is his fingerprint at a victim's apartment. Of the four victims, only Carrie Huitt saw her attacker. She speaks with Bethany Taylor, a rape counselor. Bethany convinces Carrie to face her attacker by picking him out of a lineup. She is brought in to identify her attacker, and definitively identifies Gardner.

Meanwhile, Detective Benson and Alex Cabot counsel the rape victims. The four women have to testify in front of the grand jury, but do not have to face Gardner there. Nevertheless, they ask for orders of protection, a type of restraining order. When Carrie sees Michael Gardner at her local coffee shop after he made bail, she calls the police. Gardner is not arrested because it is plausible that he was merely patronizing the coffee shop without intending to stalk Carrie there.

Benson and Stabler visit another victim, Karen Leighton, at her apartment. As they are leaving, they notice Gardner standing outside on the sidewalk. They arrest Gardner for breaking the order of protection; he claims he was merely walking his dog. Gardner faces Judge Arthur Cohen to answer for intimidating these women. Cabot argues that the coffee shop may be a coincidence, but his actions indicate that he was menacing his victims. Gardner decides to represent himself and argues that both situations are coincidence. He also notes that he did not have contact with either woman. The judge agrees, and dismisses the charges as "facially insufficient".

Gardner chooses to represent himself at the trial for the rapes. Cabot and the SVU detectives see him as intimidating his victims even in the trial process. However he has the right to represent himself. As Cabot and the detectives discuss the evidence, Cabot is served with Gardner's motion to sever the charges. He wants each rape to be tried separately, so the physical evidence from the fourth rape will not be introduced at the other three. Cabot cites precedent for combining the rapes, but Gardner cites another case supporting his position. Judge Lois Preston sides with the defense. Gardner is pleased with this victory and moves to dismiss the charges of the first three rapes. The judge agrees that the first three rapes lack sufficient evidence, and dismisses the charges.

Since Gardner would be cross examining her personally, Carrie Huitt decides not to testify at the trial. Detective Benson and the rape counselor Bethany Taylor convince Carrie to testify. At the trial, Gardner focuses on Carrie's identification of him in the lineup. Gardner notes that Benson arrested him and talked to Bethany Taylor before the lineup. He implies that Benson could have told Bethany to tell Carrie to pick him out.

Gardner demands that Bethany Taylor testify about what she and Carrie talked about. Cabot points out that the conversation between counselor and victim is protected. Gardner subpoenas her testimony, citing concerns that his due process is being violated by potential evidence being withheld. Judge Preston compromises, and decides to interview Bethany Taylor privately to determine if the lineup was tainted. Bethany refuses to talk even to the judge, and is arrested for contempt. Benson pleads with her to testify, but Bethany explains that testifying would set a precedent and lead to a slippery slope. If conversations with victims could be revealed, victims will not talk to counselors.

Benson convinces Carrie to waive her right and allow Bethany to testify to the judge. Judge Preston determines that Bethany did not influence the lineup and nothing of their conversation will be heard in court. Gardner is furious and tries to object. Judge Preston adjourns the trial for the day. Outside the court, Bethany approaches Detective Benson. A man who raped one of Bethany's patients demands to know their conversation and has issued a subpoena. Six of Bethany's patients quit counseling; Bethany blames Detective Benson.

Benson and Stabler have a heart-to-heart. Benson says that Gardner's justice would come at too high a cost if women do not trust rape counselors. Benson wonders about the futility of arresting a rapist when another will take his place. Stabler reassures Benson that she is a good cop because she feels so passionately for the victims. He also reminds her that she can quit if she is too upset.

The next day at trial Gardner is missing. His lawyer, Erin Russ, says that she does not know where he is. Another victim is found with the same MO as Gardner's four rapes. This victim was murdered as well. Dr. Warner confirms Gardner's bite mark on the victim's arm.

Benson and Stabler review Gardner's financials. They find a large withdrawal at a check-cashing spot. The security tapes show Gardner leaving in a white Lexus SUV, driven by an unidentified woman. The detectives pore over his phone records, and realize that Gardner called his lawyer before he was even arrested. They look at Erin Russ' records and discover she owns a white Lexus SUV and learn she has been having an affair with Gardner. The police rush to Russ' apartment, where they find she has murdered Gardner. The knife Gardner used in the rapes was in her Lexus. She had confronted him, but he denied responsibility. She was so enraged that she stabbed him.

Benson arranges for Carrie to view the body of Michael Gardner. Carrie is relieved that he is dead and her torment is over.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast


  • People v. West
  • People v. Sable
  • People v. Pena


  • Erin Russ: The rape charges on my client are bogus. And how did he get hurt between his home and the station house?
  • Alex Cabot: I don't know, how did he? (looks at Fin and Elliot)
  • Odafin Tutuola: He fell.
  • Erin Russ: Bull.
  • Alex Cabot: The only injuries I see are Mr. Gardner's torn knuckles from punching Detective Benson in the face, so unless you want to add the assault of a police officer to the list of charges, I suggest you move on.

  • Michael Gardner: Why are you harassing me? I didn't do anything.
  • Elliot Stabler: Violating an order of protection, you moron. You just bought yourself a cell in Rikers.

  • Michael Gardner [to Olivia]: You're not mad at me? Or, uh, embarrassed that I eluded your grasp in front of your colleagues?
  • Olivia Benson: It's not uncommon for a perpetrator to lose control of himself, and I have certainly been hit much harder.

  • Olivia Benson [to Elliot]: Your one night as a bachelor, and you went grocery shopping? That's pretty pathetic.
  • Elliot Stabler: It was a grocery store with strippers.

Background information and notes

  • The song used in the opening scene of the episode is "Dear Claudia" by SouthFM.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4

Nice Perks Coffee Shop
680 Amsterdam Avenue
Tuesday, March 25

Apartment of
Karen Leighton
177 West 95th Street
Tuesday, March 25

Motion Hearing
Thursday, March 27

Trial Part 22
Friday, March 28

5 6 7

Apartment of
Carrie Huitt
101 West 88th Street
Monday, March 31

Trial Part 22
Tuesday, April 1

Trial Part 22
Wednesday, April 2

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