"Thought Criminal"
SVU, Episode 15.23
Production number: 15023
First aired: 14 May 2014
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
th of 476 released in SVU
  th of 1229 released in all  
Teleplay By
Peter Blauner

Story By
Peter Blauner & Julie Martin & Warren Leight

Directed By
Adam Bernstein

The SVU pushes legal and moral boundaries to put a sexual predator behind bars - even though he has not technically committed a crime.


Under the guidance of Lieutenant Murphy, Sergeant Benson and the SVU take an active approach to catching sex offenders. They target Simon Wilkes, a well-regarded photographer with a secret life. An undercover investigation finds his graphic, sadistic fantasies may have crossed the line into reality, at a child's expense. But the case becomes impossible when no evidence of a victim is found.


Under the direction of Murphy, the SVU squad embarks on a mission to catch sexual predators by enticing them in a fake internet stream.

This tactic leads to a minor offender named Gordon, but Murphy wants a bigger catch.

The detectives lean on Gordon for intel on his worst associates and he clues the team in to a fantasy website focused on young children and one particularly unsettling participant named Simon Wilkes (who makes his living as a well-respected photographer).

Murphy and Rollins go undercover as rich art lovers at one of Wilkes' exhibitions. Murphy name-drops users from the site, feigning interest in "other" work Wilkes might have for sale.

Wilkes takes the bait and after talking outside the gallery, he agrees to procure a boy to further their mutual interests. Armed with the taped conversation, Murphy goes to Barba, who warns him that the government doesn't indict people for imagining things.

Everyone on the squad sides with Murphy and he enlists Fin off the books to pose as a human trafficker in an effort to squeeze more dirt on Wilkes. It is discovered that Wilkes owns a secret soundproof room filled with torture instruments.

Murphy arrests Wilkes and when they case the room, Rollins locates photos that indicate some serious crimes. It is later discovered that Wilkes photoshopped the photos & the room showed no evidence of DNA.

The SVU squad calls up Dr. Huang for a psych evaluation. Although Wilkes sticks with his story about how he's only fantasizing (and not acting) on his impulses, Dr. Huang believes that his torture chamber represents a gun about to go off.

During the trial, Barba tries his best to guide the jury, but without any clear crime, the case appears weak. The team digs deep for any missing leads and discovers Wilkes' ex-wife (who resides in Toronto).

It is discovered that the ex-wife discovered Wilkes' propensity for dark online material and moved away to protect their son. When they blindside Wilkes in court with his son and ex-wife, he breaks down.

Wilkes admits that his fantasies caused the divorce even though he never acted on them. Despite his breakdown, the jury is unconvinced and Wilkes is cleared on all charges.

Later on, Amaro discovers that Maria and Zara are moving to Los Angeles after Maria received a job offer there.

While Amaro walks by a playground, he notices Wilkes taking photos of the kids playing. Amaro asks him to stop, but Wilkes won't. Amaro snaps and assaults him. In the end, the police show up and handcuff Amaro.


Main Cast

Recurring Cast

Guest Cast


Episode references


Amaro: Why are we talking to this guy? Just charge him and lock him up.
Declan Murphy: This squad needs to evolve. Little cases make big cases.

Declan Murphy: [to Dr. Huang about Wilkes] Will he act on these impulses?
Dr. Huang: Well, here's another analogy: some people just talk about suicide, but we worry about them when they go out and they buy a gun.

Minonna Efron: [to the jury] I'd like you to ask yourselves, have you ever had thoughts you knew you would never act on? I know I have. I'm sure the D.A. has. Cheating on your spouse? Killing your boss, maybe an in-law? Think about it. Better yet, don't think about it. Don't. Otherwise you'll be where Mr. Wilkes is now.

Background information and Notes

Background info.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4

City Payroll Office
1 Centre Street
Wednesday, April 23

The Stanshall Innes Gallery
517 West 20th Street
Thursday, April 24

Rikers Island
Meeting Room
Friday, April 25

Dewitt Clinton Park
Friday, April 25

5 6 7

Arraignment Court
Part 11
Monday, April 28

Home of
Paula Walker
447 Horsham Avenue
Toronto, Canada
Wednesday, April 30

Supreme Court
Part 20
Thursday, May 1

Previous episode:
"Reasonable Doubt"
"Thought Criminal"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 15
Next episode:
"Spring Awakening"
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