|←||L&O, Episode 11.05||→|
|Production number: E1309|
First aired: 15 November 2000
| Written By|
Three skylarking high-school students stumble through the open basement door of a leather clothing store and discover a man shot to death. Arriving at the scene, Briscoe and Green assume the victim, store co-owner Saul Caplan, interrupted a robbery in progress; he has a baseball bat in his hand, the lock on the basement door has been forced, the cash register has been emptied and several leather coats are missing. "Looks like the pitcher blew one by him," says Briscoe.
Interviewing a few locals, the detectives learn that a transvestite prostitute named Toreador acquired an expensive leather coat the previous night. Briscoe and Green find Toreador wearing the coat which is from the victim's store, Becker & Caplan. She/he claims the coat was a gift from a client, Ronnie Ortega, who turns out to be Becker & Caplan's delivery driver. Ortega admits stealing the coat but denies killing Mr. Caplan. Ortega also has an alibi for the night of the murder.
The police forensics team discover the basement door lock was opened with a key, despite the appearance of being forced. Briscoe and Green conclude the robbery and murder were an inside job. They visit the home of Caplan's business partner Nathan Becker, where the shiva for Saul Caplan is taking place. Becker is unhappy with the police presence during the mourning ritual but answers their brief questions. One of the employees, Sal Bonafiglio, has a history of burglary convictions and the police bring him in for questioning. Bonafiglio is hostile and defensive in response to questions, leading Briscoe to conclude Bonafiglio is "involved somehow." From Bonafiglio's criminal record the detectives identify his former robbery partner, Eddie Novello. Briscoe and Green wait for Eddie outside his apartment building and find him with a bag full of leather coats from Becker & Caplan. They arrest him.
During interrogation it soon becomes clear Eddie is simple-minded. He admits to the break-in and murder, saying the purpose of the break-in was to kill Caplan, after which Bonafiglio told him he could take whatever else he wanted. Bonafiglio also gave Eddie $5000 for the hit. Briscoe and Green subsequently arrest Bonafiglio, who continues to deny any involvement. Van Buren tells her detectives the case against Bonafiglio is weak, relying on the testimony of the highly suggestible Eddie. Furthermore Bonafiglio has no apparent motive, being a trouble-free employee for Becker & Caplan for several years, and examination of his financial records show he could not have afforded to pay Eddie the money for the killing. The detectives are compelled to investigate further.
Briscoe and Green discover Bonafiglio frequented a nightclub named Red, which doesn't open until 2AM. "Do you want a nap before we go?" Green asks Briscoe. At the club they discover Bonafiglio used to visit along with Nathan's son Eli, who also works at Becker & Caplan. Eli bought some cocaine and sold some Becker & Caplan coats at Red. The detectives visit the Becker residence again to interview Eli, with Nathan protesting strenuously once more. Eli admits to visiting the club and buying cocaine "in the past" but denies selling stolen coats. The police check the store's sales records, for which Eli was responsible, and they appear correct, but upon further investigation of inventory they discover many missing coats. Ronnie Ortega admits Eli Becker ordered many more coats than appear on the store's financial records and forced Ortega to keep quiet about it. The police assume Caplan found out about Eli Becker stealing and selling coats and thus Eli had Caplan killed. Briscoe and Green set out to arrest Eli Becker as he arrives for work, but he doesn't arrive after the detectives couldn't find him at home. At Becker & Caplan, they ask Nathan where his son is. "Somewhere where you can't get him," Mr. Becker replies. Eli Becker has flown to Israel and is claiming citizenship under the Law of Return.
As the DA's office attempts to extradite Eli Becker back to New York, DA Nora Lewin hears protests against the extradition from Councilman Berenson. The councilman argues strongly regarding the meaning of the right of Return to Jewish people, and points out Eli Becker is in prison in Israel (citing the Jonathan Pollard case), while an Israeli court considers the extradition request. McCoy, also present, points out Jonathan Pollard is in an American prison for a crime committed in the USA, and Lewin argues that isn't the point; Eli Becker is wanted for murder in New York. Carmichael investigates further, discovering Eli Becker was adopted and his birth-mother was named Mary-Elizabeth Kelly. "She's about as Jewish as I am," says McCoy. The DAs set out to challenge the legitimacy of Eli Becker's conversion to Judaism in a Rabbinical Court, with the hope that insufficient evidence of Becker's Jewish identity will negate his right of Return to Israel. At a Rabbinical Court in Brooklyn, Carmichael establishes that Eli Becker was born to a Roman Catholic woman and adopted by the Beckers at age 6 months. Carmichael states that conversion to Judaism requires circumcision, the taking of a Hebrew name and a ritual bath known as a mikvah. The Becker family's lawyer, Brad Feldman, provides evidence of Eli's circumcision and Hebrew naming, but none for the mikvah. Accordingly, the rabbis rule that Eli is not Jewish, prompting an angry outburst against them from his father.
Lewin is visited again by Councilman Berenson, who continues to try and persuade the DA not to extradite Becker. When Lewin points out Becker isn't even Jewish and has no right of Return, Berenson argues Eli Becker has lived all his life to this point believing he is a Jew and goes on to describe the persecution Jews have experienced throughout history, and argues this should be taken into consideration in the proceedings. McCoy scoffs at this, asking if he has to take the ethnic background of every defendant into account. Berenson is insulted by the suggestion that Jews are "the same as Koreans" (McCoy's example) and goes on to say there will be "political consequences" if the DA continues to pursue Eli. After Berenson leaves, Lewin admits to McCoy she is worried by the political threats, but instructs McCoy to pursue the case normally.
Israel extradites Eli back to the USA and New York where he is charged with Saul Caplan's murder. He refuses to answer any questions, allowing Feldman to assert his innocence. But evidence begins to mount against him. McCoy offers Bonafiglio a deal for his testimony, and Bonafiglio states Eli was making so much money from selling the stolen coats he couldn't bear to give it up when discovered by Caplan. Bonafiglio claims Eli paid him $10,000 to arrange Saul Caplan's murder. Interviewed by Carmichael, Saul Caplan's grandson David hints at some dark moments in Eli's past but refuses to testify against him, saying he loves Eli. David Caplan stands to inherit his grandfather's share of the business, whereas Eli Becker is not in line to inherit a share of the business.
The trial commences. Ronnie Ortega and Sal Bonafiglio give their testimony, but Feldman establishes that Ortega also stole coats from the company "for your transvestite prostitute girlfriend" and that Bonafiglio made a deal for his testimony. During a recess Feldman makes an offer to McCoy, that Eli serve a negotiated sentence in an Israeli prison. Nathan, continuing to assert his son's complete innocence, argues with Feldman over this. McCoy rejects the offer, stating he intends to seek the death penalty if Eli is found guilty, which shocks the Beckers into silence.
Eli takes the stand. At first he calmly denies his involvement in the murder, but McCoy presses on the legitimacy of Eli's status in his world; his adoption and non-Jewishness; his extradition and essential rejection by Israel; the fact he will never be more than an employee at his father's business, Becker & Caplan. Eventually Eli produces a vociferous outburst over these, in particular the fact he will never inherit a share of the business, for which he blames Saul Caplan and over which he expresses jealousy towards David Caplan. During another recess Feldman states Eli will make an allocution if McCoy agrees not to seek the death penalty. McCoy accepts. Nathan continues to protest but Eli silences his father and agrees to the deal, admitting to paying Bonafiglio to have Caplan murdered. He receives a minimum prison sentence of 20 years and is sent back to Tel Aviv to serve his sentence.
- Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe
- Jesse L. Martin as Detective Ed Green
- S. Epatha Merkerson as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren
- Sam Waterston as Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy
- Angie Harmon as A.D.A. Abbie Carmichael
- Dianne Wiest as Interim D.A. Nora Lewin
- Evan Handler as Eli Becker
- Sam Schacht as Nathan Becker
- Joe Maruzzo as Sal Bonafiglio
- David Wike as Frank
- Bruce Ornstein as Councilman Lev Berenson
- Phyllis Bash as Judge Jensen
- Lynne Charnay as Rose Caplan
- Rick D. Wasserman as David Caplan
- Laurie Heineman as Sylvia Becker
- Danny Maseng as Embassy Lawyer
- Matthew Dixon as Eddie Novello
- Antone Pagan as Ronnie Ortega
- Kevin Rennard as Toreador
- Alicia Brockwell as Sugar
- Sol Frieder as Rabbi #1
- Rabbi Morris S. Friedman as Rabbi #2
- Robert Levine as Rabbi #3
- Joel Leffert as Jerry Belichek
- Elizabeth Martin as Store Manager
- Robert Alexander Owens as Defense Attorney Bates
- Lucille Rivin as Passport Worker
- Patrick Frederic as Locksmith
- Robert Harte as Student #1
- Gerry Rosenthal as Student #2
- Johnny Lancaster as Student #3
- Brian Dykstra as CSU Officer
- E. Patrick Corbett as Bartender
- Floyd Resnick as Sergeant
(the Rabbinical Court has declared that Eli Becker is not eligible for protection under the Right of Return because there was no evidence he underwent a Mikveh)
- Mr. Becker: A stinking technicality! And these momzers'll make him hang for it!
- Rabbi #3: The Talmud has no technicalities, Mr. Becker. Only laws.
- Mr. Becker: Drop dead!
Background information and notes
- Goof: Phyllis Bash is credited as "Judge Jensen" but the nameplate shown lists her character's name as "Taylor Jackson".
Episode scene cards
Becker & Caplan
New York State
Becker & Caplan
House of Israel
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