"Prince of Darkness"
L&O, Episode 3.08
Production number: 68003
First aired: 18 November 1992
  th of 456 produced in L&O  
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Cragen Logan Cerreta Prince of Darkness
Written By
Robert Nathan & William N. Fordes

Directed By
Gilbert Shilton

A Colombian drug cartel assassin is accused in the murder of a Colombian couple in a restaurant. During the investigation, Ceretta sets up a buy with a black market arms dealer, but is shot twice when the deal goes wrong.


A Colombian businessman, Manuel Ortega, and his wife, Natalie, are brutally murdered in a crowded restaurant.

Ortega and his boss, Roberto Buenaventura, were in the business of flying members of the Colombian cartel into the country under the guise of a travel agency. Ortega's mother tells the police that her son killed a major dealer named Felix Arias when he made advances towards Natalie. Ortega's murder was done by Javier Gaitan in revenge for Arias's killing. Gaitan also goes by the name Paolo Esteban.

Cerreta and Logan arrest Gaitan for murder. However, Stone is unable to prosecute with the weak evidence presented. They have 30 days to build a case before Gaitan is released. Cerreta and Logan determine that the gun used was a Steyr Aug. They set up a sting with a black market gun dealer, George Lobrano. The sting goes bad, and Cerreta is shot twice.

With Cerreta's permission, Stone makes a deal with Lobrano to testify against Gaitan. Gaitan's girlfriend, Sandra Alvaro, refuses to testify in person after being threatened. Stone is able to have her testimony taken in jail, and read aloud in court. Gaitan is convicted for the murders of the Manuel and Natalie Ortega, but is killed outside the courthouse by a man known as Cristobal.

Cristobal is able to con Stone and Robinette into believing Gaitan killed his son, and that his actions were a heat-of-the-moment revenge killing. Lobrano tells them that this is a lie, but Cristobal is on a flight back to Colombia before they are able to re-arrest him.

Schiff is informed that Lobrano had his throat slit, Buenaventura was strangled, Ortega's mother fell out of a window, and their daughter was picked up at school by an uncle. A horrified Ben Stone points out: "She doesn't have an uncle..."


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast


Rikers Island


Cerreta: Do you think we need a warrant to search Manuel's apartment?
Logan: He's not a suspect. He's a victim. We search his apartment, we're doing him a favor, right?
Cerreta: I like your thinking.
Logan: (laughs)

If Manuel dies, you prop him up in a suit behind a piano. I don't care what you do, but no one finds out. You get guards around his home.

–Captain Cragen

Stone: We're dropping all charges.
Robinette: (to Sandra) You're free to go.
Stone: We'll hold a press conference announcing a new prosecution witness.
Ben Stone: She'll solidify our case.
Sally: This is not you, Ben.
Stone: This is definitely me, Sally. When a cop gets shot, I want a conviction.

Schiff: You would have held a press conference?
Stone: I'm glad I didn't have to decide.

I LOVE cases where a homicidal gun dealer is our best witness.


Logan: Manuel hits Arias: They send a signal. "Don't anybody do it again."
Cragen: Hold your horses. Something here sounds familiar.
Logan: Yeah, drug dealers shoot people

Schiff: The gun dealer was in the yard at Riker's. Had his throat cut. Buenaventura was strangled in the kitchen at Dannemora. And Manuel Ortega's mother fell out of a window.
Robinette: What about the little girl?
Schiff: She was picked up at school by her uncle.
Stone: She doesn't have an uncle.

Background information and notes

  • In the last appearance of actor Paul Sorvino as regular cast member Sergeant Phil Cerreta, we learn that his mother is 73 years old and still works in the clothing industry. Cerreta became a cop in 1969. After Max Greevey, Cerreta is the second partner to Mike Logan who gets shot.
  • The episode title "Prince of Darkness" is a reference to the nickname given to Columbian hit man Javier Lariano Gaitan.

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