Law and Order
Law and Order
SVU, Episode 8.21
Production number: 08020
First aired: 15 May 2007
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
th of 476 released in SVU
  th of 1229 released in all  
Cassandra Sullivan.jpg
Written By
Dawn DeNoon

Directed By
David Platt


Episode Summary


The squad investigates the murder of teenager Riley Cuskey, killed by his best friend Scott Heston in a case of extreme wrestling gone bad. The trial ends with Scott's conviction on a lesser charge. After the key witness, the victim's girlfriend, Cassandra Sullivan, fails to show up at the sentencing hearing, Scott is sentenced to probation.

When Cassandra is injured in an attack instigated by the defendant, the case takes a bizarre turn. Information surfaces revealing that Cassandra is far older than she appears to be and has been defrauding the foster care system for over a decade. While wiring Cassandra's jaw, a doctor notices scars from wisdom teeth extraction and estimates that Cassandra is in her mid to late 20s. Detective Stabler and Benson confronts and questions her to find out how she kept up appearances; they point out that as an adult, she shouldn't be in foster care and definitely not dating teenagers. However, she denies being older. The detectives are less sympathetic, but are concerned about her actions.

Stabler and Benson find out that Cassandra Sullivan's true identity is Denise Pickering, pulling up her real record: removed from an abusive home and placed into her first foster family twelve years ago, after which she refused to leave the system permanently. Novak realized that she felt betrayed by Cassandra's action for the moment she had met her in a lie and Cassandra may go to prison for theft by defrauding every free education and free foster care service from every state she went to. Their biggest problem is that they are dealing with an adult woman attending high school with a bunch of students, but Novak tells them to remove her and notify the system to cancel everything, before she continues to slip again. Benson is concerned that Cassandra/Denise still is a young child and she could never taken care herself on her own. However, Novak realized that she's nearly reached the age of 30 and it's about time to let Cassandra/Denise grow up like a mature adult should be; but, she will give a second chance of providing her some counseling.

After the discussion with Novak, a defense attorney walks into headquarters telling that he needs to report a rape, with the victim being Scott Heston, because he knows that Cassandra Sullivan is far older and has committed statutory rape; and tells Stabler and Benson to arrest her. But they don't believe him, because he just was trying to boost the defense of the Scott's murder trial and prosecute Cassandra/Denise for his action and believes that Scott seduced her. But, he refuses to believe it, because he believes that Scott suffered from rape trauma syndrome which was the reason that Riley is dead whether to press charges against her or not.

Cassandra/Denise is placed into a shelter, because she was removed from school and foster care; then, she was confronted by Novak feeling deceived telling her that she needs to take the plea. Cassandra/Denise denies that she never raped anybody. Novak stated her that she technically did; but Cassandra/Denise refuses to admit that she is an adult and is still 16. Novak ignores her words and calls her by her original name, telling her to drop the act. But, Cassandra refuses to take her original name and still wants to be called Cassandra Sullivan. Novak warns her that if she does't take the plea, she'll have no other option than to take her to trial where Scott is being transported from Rikers Island to testify against her. However, Cassandra/Denise refuses, saying that she can't go to court and be accused of something that she didn't do. But, Novak told her that the sentence for rape three is one and half to three years and will only offer probation, if she takes the deal; but, Cassandra/Denise proves that she is not a grown adult or a woman. However, Novak looks at her without sympathy and still feeling deceived about who she is.

At court, Scott testifies against Cassandra/Denise. When Scott figured out that she was an adult, he felt deceived and angry, because of her appearance. Novak also asked him if he ever had sex with Cassandra/Denise; Scott answered yes. After Novak finished questioning him about Cassandra's true appearance, Cassandra/Denise steps in front of the stand, which the Judge agrees to; but only calls her by her true name which annoys Cassandra. She begins to question him for accusing her for raping him. He was clearly disgusted that she was capable of doing something like this. Scott still in complete loathing anger toward Cassandra/Denise for deceiving him and his friend, Riley who was also or possibly been raped by her as well, because they thought she was 16 and she took advantage of them both. However, she quickly contempts him of seeing the murderer for who he is. Scott, suddenly turns his loathing into hatred and fury believing she was responsible for his action of murdering his friend; then he charges at her; but he is completely suppressed by the court officer and his lawyer which led a mistrial by the judge. Novak knew she was performing as a pseuade-teenager state again. (This is stated that Scott Heston's life and his future was destroyed, because Cassandra Sullivan/ Denise Pickering victimized him, along with Riley.)

Novak confronts Cassandra/Denise once more, because she believes that she planned it from the beginning, but Cassandra quickly denies that she would be able to do something like that. As a backup, Novak brings in a witness to prove who Cassandra/Denise really was and what she did. She brings in Jeannie Hayes, Cassandra's first foster mother, who tries to bring her back to her original life; but Denise tells her that she had no recollection of her and was confusing her with someone else. But Mrs. Hayes brings Cassandra/Denise back to her senses by showing her a picture of her and Denise sitting on the swing she always enjoyed, telling how she aged out of foster care and had to leave. Suddenly, Denise tells her that the system dumped her on the streets and she has no place to go. Mrs. Hayes tells her that she (Denise) turned eighteen and the system cut off the money. When Mrs. Hayes tells her the whole truth, Denise regresses to her true persona and tells her that she was only 18 and she wasn't ready to face reality yet, because her former foster mother is the only person to take care of her and she just wanted it all back.

When Detectives Benson and Stabler enter, Casey Novak told them that she had to refile and she thinks Denise will take the plea now. But, Stabler tells her that he doubts the D.A.s' from other states will be as lenient, as it turns out that she will face numerous charges from other states; and, Benson told Novak that Denise's story came to light on the news wire, other boys are coming forward. When they confront Denise, Benson shows her pictures of three different boys from three different high schools and states and asks her if she had any recollection with them and Stabler asks her that she had sex with these boys. Denise reveals to them that they were her high school sweethearts. Benson told her that Riley isn't the love of her life; and also told her that she never loved any of them. But, she also told them that she did love them all; then, when Stabler asks her why she left them if she loved them, she responds that they all got older and she didn't.


Main cast[]

Recurring cast[]

Guest cast[]

  • Misti Traya as Denise Pikering / Cassandra Sullivan
  • Michael Welch as Scott Heston
  • Ylfa Edelstein as Sonia Briglund
  • Clark Middleton as Landlord
  • Scott Sowers as Tim
  • Tibor Feldman as Dr. Cohen
  • Patrick Taylor as Keith
  • Brian Anthony Wilson as Milton Sarlove
  • Keith Barber as Darren Tolson
  • Tina Fabrique as Jeannie Hayes
  • Dan Leonard as Riley Cuskey
  • Laurie Dawn as Clonie Blake
  • Katherine Puma as Virginia Cuskey
  • Steve Beauchamp as Frank
  • JoAnna Beckson as Angela Farrell
  • Kim Page as Jury Forewoman


Chicago Detriot Allentown, Pennsylvania Indiana Maryland Parkview New Jersey


Now, I lost my best friend. My only consolation is that Riley died doing what he loved. I am going to have to live with what I did to him for the rest of my life... which, I expect, will suck.

Scott Heston

I never stopped loving them. But they all grew up, and I... didn't.

Cassandra Sullivan

Background information and notes[]

  • The Cassandra Sullivan character has a similar persona to Fiona Reid, et al in the later (13.02) episode "Shangri-La", or may have had Turner's syndrome like the character Janey Speer in a previous episode (8.02) "Clock."
  • Actor Michael Welch (Scott Heston) and actress Misti Traya (Cassandra Sullivan) also starred on several episodes of the television show Joan of Arcadia together. While they aren't romantically involved in the show, Welch and Traya both play students attending Arcadia High.
  • This marks the final appearance of Maureen and Elizabeth Stabler until "What Happens in Puglia".

Episode scene cards[]

1 2 3 4

Residence of
Darren Tolson
338 East 4th Street
Wednesday, March 28

Residence of
Sonia Briglund
147 Stanton Street
Thursday, March 29

Trial Part 17
Tuesday, April 24

Residence of
Cassandra Sullivan
46 Clinton Street
Wednesday, April 25

5 6 7

H.S. 85
127 East 3rd Street
Thursday, April 26

Trial Part 17
Friday, April 27

Department of
40 Worth Street
Friday, April 27

8 9 10

Mercy General Hospital
365 West 32nd Street
Friday, April 27

Bowery Safe Haven
16 East 2nd Street
Wednesday, May 9

Trial Part 38
Monday, May 14

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