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"Jersey Breakdown"
SVU, Episode 15.12
Production number: 15012
First aired (US): 22 January 2014
First aired (UK): 16 March 2014
First aired (CAN): 22 January 2014
First aired (AUS): 13 March 2014
  th of 502 produced in SVU  
th of 502 released in SVU
  th of 1271 released in all  
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Teleplay By
Céline C. Robinson

Story By
Julie Martin & Céline C. Robinson

Directed By
Jonathan Herron


Summary

A teenaged rape victim leads the SVU to an FBI sex trafficking investigation and corruption across state lines.

Plot

It's been a few weeks since Amaro shot 14-year-old Yusuf Barre. Amaro's still on desk duty, which he's getting tired of, to the point where he feels like it's killing him, the SVU has been short-handed, but Benson thinks it's too soon to take him off of desk duty.

Amaro tells Benson that he and his wife Maria are getting back together. Benson asks if they've been talking, and Amaro admits not yet, but he's going to Washington D.C. during the weekend, and he's going to get his old life back, because that's what he needs to do now.

Rollins joins Benson at a hospital to interview a teenage rape victim, Erin Fogarty, who was found passed out under part of the Highline, a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan's West Side.

Erin's clothes are torn, and there are signs of sexual assault. There were 3 guys, Elton, Tommy, and Jeff, at the scene, all pointing fingers at each other. A rape kit has been done on Erin. Erin refuses to cooperate or press charges against any of the three guys.

Elton, who had been pushing a garbage can on wheels at the time, says he was doing community service, cleaning up garbage off the street. DNA evidence points to Tommy, and with some pressure, the truth emerges -- Tommy and Jeff found Erin passed out, and Tommy decided to take advantage of her. Elton, who has been telling the truth, stopped Tommy from doing that. Jeff says that if Erin was raped, then it happened before they found her.

The detectives decide to follow up with Erin at the hospital, only to find that she snuck out. Benson and Rollins think that Erin's afraid of someone. At the Manhattan Ice Rink, Rollins and Fin catch up with the real Erin Fogarty, who is on ice skates. It's not the Erin who was at the ER. Fin shows Erin a photo of the girl they thought was Erin, and Erin says that the girl is 16-year-old Clare Wilson.

Clare was a friend of Erin's younger sister back in Maine, and when Clare came to New York, Erin felt bad for her, so she gave Clare her license so she could buy a drink, and Erin got a new license. For a while, Clare lived at Covenant House, but Erin thinks that she moved out.

When Fin and Rollins track down Clare's run-down apartment, she answers the door in a woozy state -- and she collapses as Rollins and Fin catch her fall. Clare took sleeping pills to try to sleep, but she overdid it. After she gets treated at a hospital, Clare says that her mother kicked her out of their house two years ago. One of her mother's boyfriends liked Clare more than he liked her mother, so he got Clare a job as a waitress at a Manhattan strip club owned by Perry Cannavaro.

Clare comes clean, admitting that a drunk VIP who visited the club raped her in the club's VIP room, but she doesn't know his name. Fin visits Perry, who seems like he refuses to believe that Clare is 16-years-old. He denies any wrongdoing, and he rejects Fin's request for his client list.

Benson and Rollins take Clare to the Williams House group home for at-risk girls, and they assure Clare that it'll spark a new lease on life for her. Clare says that the Williams House might not be a bad place to be. Clare tells Benson and Rollins that the guy who raped her definitely knew Perry. And then cops from Hudson County, New Jersey come in.

They have an arrest warrant for Clare for credit card fraud, and grand larceny. They say that Clare also worked in one of Perry's other clubs in Jersey City, New Jersey. Benson tells Clare to stop talking, ask for a lawyer, to not say a single word, and that they'll get the whole thing cleared up.

Later, at the court house, Rollins tells ADA Barba that Perry won't give up the rapist's name. Barba says that Perry thinks that it's bad for business if he does, and that Perry feels that what happens in his club stays in his club. Rollins says that in addition to the club in Manhattan, Perry owns two clubs in Florida, and three in New Jersey. Benson is suspicious -- the very day that Fin talked to Perry, Clare just happened to get arrested by the Hudson County Sheriff's department.

Barba says "Hudson County makes the rest of Jersey look like Switzerland. He got his cronies to up the pressure on Clare so she'd drop the charges. It's not a bad plan." Benson asks "So how hard is it gonna be to get her out of there?" Barba, getting an idea, says "They'll say their case takes precedence over ours, but if it were a federal case, they might back off."

Later, at the headquarters of a federal task force, Barba introduces Assistant U.S. Attorney Connie Rubirosa to Benson and Rollins. Benson says "I thought you took a job in L.A." Rubirosa says "Oh, you know the story. New York cops, D.A.s, we go out there, but it never feels quite right." Rollins says "Yeah, but the feds ordered you back for a joint task force."

Rubirosa says "Underage sex trafficking. We were actually already looking at Perry Cannavaro. He's part of a ring that targets runaways. He puts them to work in his clubs, gets them hooked on drugs, and then they owe him."

Rollins says "And the feds can't shut him down?" Rubirosa says "Well, we're trying to. The problem is, a lot of the vics go back to the life, disappear, or decide not to testify. What can you guys tell me about Clare Wilson?"

Benson says "She has had it hard, but has hit rock bottom. I think she knows that these clubs are a dead end." Rubirosa says "Will she make a good witness?" Rollins says "She wants to turn things around. She's credible." Rubirosa says "Maybe that's why Perry pulled some strings and had her arrested."

Barba says "She's being arraigned later today in Hudson County. What do you know about prosecutor Masconi?" He means Hudson County prosecutor Bobby Masconi. Rubirosa says "Well, he's got a big ego. Bill himself is a reformer. But he's not gonna want to look like he's protecting a sex trafficker. Tell him that Clare is testifying in our grand jury case against Perry. See if that'll hold him off until she does."

Barba and Rollins head to Hudson County, New Jersey, and at the jail, Clare says "It was Perry's idea. He tells the waitresses if the customer's six drinks in, and has a wedding ring on, to add a zero to the check."

Rollins says "Well, Clare, it was illegal for Perry to have you serving drinks in the first place. Our D.A. is talking to the local prosecutor right now." Clare says "You know what? You can stop trying. This is how things go in my life. Always have, and always will."

At the office of Bobby Masconi in Jersey City, Masconi outlines the charges, and asks what Barba's interest is. Barba says "She's a victim in an ongoing rape investigation. She is also a witness for a Federal grand jury targeting underage sex trafficking."

Masconi says "She's scheduled to be arraigned in an hour." Barba says "That's why I'm here. She's a minor, an abused runaway, and a victim of sexual assault. I'd like you to give our office and the Federal Task Force precedence on the more serious charges, as a professional courtesy." Masconi hastily says "Horrible story. We're already moving forward." Masconi says that his wife, Gina, is the ADA on the case.

In Hudson County Family Court in Jersey City, Clare is being arraigned. Gina tells Judge Daniel Dolan that Barba is there, and that he has an interest in Clare. Barba and Masconi approach the judge, and Barba explains the situation. Dolan says that the governor of New Jersey has taken a very public zero tolerance approach to fraud and abuse of power.

Barba explains that this is an extraordinary situation; Clare is a minor who was employed illegally, and is a victim of sexual assault. Dolan says he's sorry, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do this, and after she's arraigned, they can file any motion they want.

Gina, when asked about bail, says Clare has no legal guardians and she is living in a group home for at risk girls in New York, and that there's no one into whose custody they can release her. Dolan says that she's a teenage runaway with a record, and he finds that under the circumstances, she's a flight risk, so he remands her to a secure juvenile facility without bail, pending trial.

Back at SVU, Benson is frustrated by that. Benson says "How long is the New Jersey trial backlog?" Rubirosa says "She could be in for a year and a half." Barba says "The county prosecutor and his wife, the A.D.A., they went through the motions, but judge Dolan shut us down, hiding behind the fig leaf of Jersey's stringent anti-fraud statutes."

Rubirosa says "These guys have some stones. They want to claim protocol, I can too. There's a judge I work with on the task force. I can get him to write up a court order stipulating that we need Clare in New York to testify in a pre-trial hearing."

Barba asks Benson where they are with Perry, and Benson says to let her make some calls. Benson also finally takes Amaro off of desk duty. Benson and the detectives later charge into Perry's club in Manhattan, with every local and federal agency that's at their disposal.

An angry Perry wants to know what's going on, and Benson says "So far, we have CSU in your VIP lounge, and the health department and immigration going through your kitchen." Fin, indicating a woman with sushi on her almost naked body, says "And your sushi bar here? You better hope they don't find any human contamination on that raw fish."

Amaro says "On their way is OSHA, New York City Department of Taxation and Finance, the ATF." Fin says "Why don't you just shut this place down, give the girls the weekend off?"

Rollins is in the back room with CSU, and says they'll be doing a luminol check for fluids on all the couches. Perry says it's harassment, and Amaro says "What, do you think you're a big guy, getting your buddies in Jersey to lock up a 16-year-old rape victim?"

Perry grins, and says that he doesn't know what Amaro's talking about. Fin says "Who are you paying off?" Benson says "Masconi? Judge Dolan?" Perry says "Wait a minute. Is this all because I didn't give up the name of a patron? Huh? Alright. Alright. Alright. Say I give him up, alright? Alright. Is this circus gonna go away?"

Benson says "Oh, that's not my call." Holding up a document, Benson says "You see, once these agencies get involved, it really takes on a life of its own." Benson tells Amaro and Fin to arrest Perry.

Rollins tells Benson that she got a message from Rubirosa, who has gotten the writ expedited for Clare's release, and Barba wants to serve the papers to Dolan first thing in the morning in Jersey City at 8:00 AM. Benson tells Rollins to go with Barba to make sure Clare sees a friendly face when she gets out. But Rollins ends up gambling at blackjack, and losing.

In the chambers of Judge Dolan, he tells Barba to talk to the prosecutor. Barba reminds him that it's a court order, and Rollins enters and apologizes for being late. Barba says "You're the judge on the case. You don't need a prosecutor's permission."

Dolan says "We work closely on a lot of cases. I'd like to give him a heads-up." Rollins says "You might wanna just go ahead and sign off on that, now. Perry Cannavaro, the owner of the strip club, he's the one that turned Clare in, right?"

Dolan says "Watch yourself, detective. He's just a constituent." Barba says "Who is, at this moment, in NYPD custody, debating whether or not to save his ass by cooperating with the feds." Dolan finally folds, and authorizes Clare's release.

At the Hudson County Jail, Rollins is asking for Clare, and Officer Ryer says Clare is "one of those." When Rollins asks her to explain, Ryer says "You're a little late. Yeah, she started acting up, so we gave her diesel therapy. We put her on a bus to Knollwood Juvenile." Rollins is shocked. Knollwood Juvenile is in Salem County, in the far south part of New Jersey.

Later, Benson and Amaro are at Knollwood to get Clare, but the warden says she's not available because she's been put into solitary, and Benson says "Yeah, how did that happen since she got here yesterday?" The warden says "Well, there's an adjustment period when they get here. She got into it with another inmate. Ms. Wilson needs to learn she can't pull that at Knollwood." Amaro says "Well, we're charged with taking her back."

The warden says "I have other juvies to worry about. I won't break precedent. They get isolation, and they finish their time." Benson says "We've got all the paper work signed here." The warden says "You'll get her back to New York, detectives. Just not tonight."

Back at the Federal Task Force, Benson says "Forget about releasing Clare. They wouldn't even let us see her." Amaro says "They said she was in solitary." Fin says "I called a contact at Jersey DOC, but he said Knollwood sets its own rules." Barba says "Knollwood's a private facility?" Rollins says "Yeah, owned and operated. The state pays per prisoner, each day that they're there."

Looking at a file, Barba says "It's pretty lucrative. They hit record profits just last quarter." Rubirosa says "So the more prisoners they get, the more money they make." Rollins says "Yeah, and they're not putting those profits back into the facility, or rehab."

Barba says "We get that." Rollins says "No, you don't. There have been dozens of attempted teenage suicides. There's allegations of drug abuse, violence, sexual abuse." Barba says "Can we just put reforming the for-profit prison system on hold, and focus on Clare?"

Rollins says "I was getting to that, counselor. So every judge in Jersey, they send a few kids there a year, but Judge Dolan -- 90% of his juveniles end up there." Rubirosa says "So the judge is funneling them business. What's Knollwood funneling back to him?" Rollins says "We're not sure yet."

Rubirosa asks "And the Perry money trail?" Fin says "We have forensic accountants tearing his books apart, but he still won't give us the name of Clare's rapist." Amaro says "And he had the Hudson County legal system railroad Clare. I mean, whoever this rapist is, he has serious hooks." It's looking like Clare's rapist is someone in power. Benson says "Fin, Amaro, keep hitting Perry. Rollins, keep digging at Knollwood."

As the detectives walk off, Benson asks Barba and Rubirosa if they have any plan at all on how to get Clare out of there. Barba says that New Jersey's playing a shell game, moving Clare around like a hostage. Rubirosa says the game ends now, and that she's going to get a forthwith order releasing Clare to New York's DOC. Benson asks how that's different from the last order, and Barba explains that with that kind of order, even if Clare is in solitary, the warden will have to release her immediately.

Later, Clare is being released, and she looks disheveled, and out of it. The angry warden tells Benson and Amaro that Clare is their problem now. Amaro asks the warden what the hell happened to Clare, and the warden says "She heard the word no for the first time." As they leave the facility, Clare says "They drugged me. They said I was out of control. They dry-celled me in solitary. No running water. They called it the brown room. I had to sleep on the floor, with no blankets."

Benson, taking Clare to a waiting vehicle, promises her that she'll never have to go back to Knollwood again. Clare says "The other kids -- everyone had bruises. Everyone was doped up. It's horrible." Benson tells Clare that they'll get her to the hospital so she can get some rest.

Amaro, who has been on the phone, calls Benson over and says "Rollins just called about Knollwood's finances. They have a Jersey City P.R. firm on retainer for $25,000 a month." Benson says "P.R.? Knollwood doesn't want anyone to know they exist. They don't do P.R."

Amaro says "Well, neither does this firm. Knollwood's their only client. They only have one employee, a Beatrice D'Avola. She's 87, has Alzheimer's, lives in a condo with round-the-clock nursing care in Boca, visited often by her daughter -- Masconi's wife Gina." Benson says "The Masconis get the money. So why is judge Dolan pimping for them?"

Back at the Hudson County DA's office, Masconi says "I have no say on where a sitting judge remands his prisoners." Amaro says "Ok, well, do you have any say over what P.R. firm Knollwood uses?" Masconi says "My father-in-law -- God rest his soul -- was of counsel to some Knollwood executives. He looked out for them, and now they're paying it forward to my mother-in-law in her dotage."

Benson says "Are you aware of the practices at Knollwood -- the forced medications, the deprivation of food and water, the abuse that they call discipline?" Masconi says "You're getting this from Clare Wilson, a second-generation lowlife who's playing you and the feds. So it's true what they say about SVU." Amaro asks "Yeah? What's that?" Masconi says "Everyone's a victim to you guys." Benson says "And it's true what they say about New Jersey prosecutors. There are no victims. There are no perpetrators. Only meal tickets, huh?"

Later, back in New York, Rollins says "We're still sorting through Perry's byzantine financial system, but in the meantime, we took a look at Judge Dolan's finances." Benson says "Let me guess. Beatrice D'Avola's P.R. firm pays him as a consultant." Fin says "No. Money flows the other way."

Rollins says "Four years ago, the judge starts writing checks to local assemblymen, and the governor as well. 40 grand a year." Barba says "The governor? He's the one who appoints county prosecutors." Rubirosa says "Yeah, with the advice of local assemblymen." Barba says "That's a lot of money for a family court judge." Rollins says "He had to take out a second mortgage."

Rubirosa says "What, for campaign contributions? He still writing checks?" Rollins says "No. He stopped two years ago, okay, when Knollwood hired the P.R. firm owned by Masconi's mother-in-law." Benson says "And that's when Dolan starts dumping every juvie he comes across into Knollwood." Rubirosa says "So Masconi says 'jump,' and Dolan says 'how high?' What does he have on him?" It looks like Masconi has something on Dolan.

Barba says "Masconi, Perry -- they're old-school thugs. Dolan bullies teenage girls." Fin says "Let's hit the weak link." He means Dolan. Later, Fin and Rollins are at Dolan's home, noticing his Samurai sword collection. Rollins says "We want to ask you about your connection to Knollwood." Dolan says "It's a good, hands-on facility." Rollins says "No, they're a disgrace. When was it that you first got interested in them? I mean, just, was it before or after you took out the second mortgage on your house?"

Dolan says "You looked into my financials." Fin says "And your prosecutor pal Masconi's. We know he's taking kickbacks from Knollwood." Dolan says "I don't know anything about that." Fin says "Well, how about the 90% of the juvies you sent there?" Rollins says "I mean, come on, Masconi has got a house in Vail. He's got a big old estate in West Hampton. His mother-in-law lives in a million-dollar condo in Boca." Fin says "You're mortgaged up to your neck, and all you've got is some swords." Dolan says "I'm gonna have to ask you to leave."

Rollins says "Either you've got the worst business manager in the world, or Masconi has you by the short hairs. Whatever it is, we're gonna find out." Dolan says "There's nothing to find out." Fin says "That girl you sent away, Clare -- you know she got raped, don't you? And you sent her to prison. I think you know who the rapist is." Dolan, looking very worried, says "Leave. Now." They do.

That night, while Benson is at home, in her apartment, Benson gets a call from Fin, who tells her to turn on the TV. She turns it on, and changes it to the channel that Fin tells her to watch, only to see a news story that Dolan's body has been found in his study, the victim of a Japanese ritual suicide known as Hara Kiri, using one of his Samurai swords. Benson is stunned.

Outside Dolan's home, Detective Moore tells Rollins and Fin that it took hours for Dolan to bleed out. Moore shows them a photo that was texted to Dolan's cell phone before he killed himself. It's a picture of Dolan, in a VIP room, with a Japanese girl on his lap.

Back in New York, Rollins, showing the picture to Rubirosa, says "This photo was texted to judge Dolan, right before he killed himself." Rubirosa says "I know this girl. I saw her file. Miyako Nara. She was born into a massage parlor, and passed around early." Benson asks "Where is this girl now?" Rubirosa says "She disappeared four years ago. No trace of her since." Barba says "Four years ago. That's when Dolan started paying off Masconi's political cronies."

Rubirosa says "Okay. Now we know what Masconi has on Dolan. Is it safe to say that he didn't use his own phone to send it?" Rollins says "Nah, it's a burner cell. It looks like a surveillance still from a private room at a strip club." Rubirosa says "Miyako used to work at Perry's Jersey City club." Benson says "All roads lead to Perry." Barba says "Dolan fell on his sword. Maybe Perry won't."

At Rikers, Barba and Amaro show the photo to Perry, saying that Miyako was 12-years-old at the time of the photo. Amaro says "You got Dolan drunk, sent her into the VIP room, he screws her, you send the surveillance video to Masconi, and the both of you own a judge, then the girl mysteriously disappears." Perry's attorney, Arnie, says "You have a dark world view, detective."

Perry says "Oh, wait a minute. Yeah. She was some dancer's niece. Hung out. I have no idea what happened to her." Barba says "Mr. Cannavaro, you are looking at RICO sex trafficking charges. Do you need your lawyer to explain to you what that means?"

Arnie says "RICO. You haven't even charged him yet. I take it that means you're ready to offer my client a deal." Looking toward Perry, Barba says "That's up to the federal prosecutor, pending your cooperation." Perry says "I don't know anything about underage girls." Laughing, Perry adds "I promise, I'll screen better."

Amaro says "Wow. Wow. That's old-school. You know, you're a real stand-up guy, protecting some mook who raped one of your own girls. And for what? Omerta? The times have changed, Perry. Are you gonna be the last schmuck in Jersey to honor the code? Who raped Clare Wilson, Perry?" Barba says "Judge Dolan is gone, Perry. You don't have to protect him anymore." Perry says "It's not the judge I was protecting. Come on." Perry names the rapist.

Later, back at SVU, Benson has Clare there, along with Rollins and Rubirosa, for Clare to view a line-up. An emotional Clare identifies the nervous Masconi as her rapist. Clare reveals Masconi raped her in the VIP room, believing she was part of the deal. Gina is horrified to hear the truth about her husband and asks to have a word with "her client." A smug Benson says "You mean your husband? You're still standing by your man, counselor?" Gina storms off.

Rollins asks Clare if she wants her to take her back to the Williams House group home, and Clare nods yes. Clare smiles, and thanks all of them. Benson tells her that she'll be OK. After Rollins and Clare leave, Rubirosa, who got a message, says "So, that was Barba. Perry had a lot to say. It turns out he and Masconi were silent partners for 20 years. Dolan wasn't the only judge Masconi owned. He's still naming names." Benson says "So he cut a deal." Rubirosa says "Well, he will keep his clubs, for now, but he's gonna be working for me for a while."

At the group home, which is at 190 west 12th street, Clare says "The man who raped me is the prosecutor who charged me with fraud?" Rollins says "And the judge that put you away was being blackmailed by him. New Jersey -- they're never gonna clean it up." Clare says "But I'm safe now? They can't charge me? They can't send me back to Knollwood?" Rollins says "No. And the feds assured us that they're gonna investigate Knollwood." Clare says "Can you trust those guys?" Rollins says "I hope so." Clare says "So what happens now?" Rollins says "You start your new life, go get your GED. Maybe go to college." As Clare looks at the tree outside her room's window, she says "With my view."

At SVU, Amaro tells Benson that he's driving to Washington DC, and he and Maria are going to sit down and really talk. Later, in her apartment, Benson appears to be doing some paperwork, and she drinks some wine as Maria calls her. After they hang up, the episode fades to black.

Cast

Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast

References

  • "Seagulling"
  • The Knollwood prison scandal is a reference to the Pennsylvania "kids for cash" scandal.

Quotes

Episode quotes

Background information and notes

  • Olivia Benson continues to act as temporary commander of SVU after Donald Cragen retires in the last episode, "Amaro's One-Eighty".
  • Nick Amaro continues to be on desk duty after the shooting in last episode. To get out of desk duty, Amaro mentions what Benson said to Captain Cragen in the episode "Imprisoned Lives".
  • Rollins' gambling problem interferes with her work as she is late meeting the victim and for a meeting with Barba.
  • Benson mentions that she heard that Connie Rubirosa had taken a job in Los Angeles, reminding us that after she was an Assistant district attorney in Manhattan (in Law & Order), she went on to work for the Los Angeles District Attorney's office (in Law & Order: LA starting with the episode "Silver Lake").
  • Tutuola reveals he has a niece and nephew.
  • Tutuola hints that Amaro and Rollins are attracted to each other.
  • Raúl Esparza and Alana De La Garza had previously worked together in the Law & Order episode "Blackmail" when the former appeared as Dennis Di Palma and the latter as Connie Rubirosa.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3

Mercy Hospital
365 West 32nd Street
Monday, January 20

Manhattan Ice Rink
739 West 29th Street
Tuesday, January 21

Williams House Group Home
190 West 12th Street
Wednesday, January 22

4 5 6

Federal Task Force
26 Federal Plaza
Wednesday, January 22

Office of
Hudson County Prosecutor
Bobby Masconi
Jersey City, New Jersey
Wednesday, January 22

Hudson County Family Court
Jersey City, New Jersey
Wednesday, January 22

7 8 9 10

Chambers of
Judge Daniel Dolan
Jersey City, New Jersey
Friday, January 24

Knollwood Juvenile Facility
Salem County, New Jersey
Friday, January 24

Rikers Island
Sunday, January 26

Williams House Group Home
190 West 12th Street
Monday, January 27

Previous episode:
"Amaro's One-Eighty"
"Jersey Breakdown"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 15
Next episode:
"Betrayal's Climax"
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