Law & Order/Recap/S17/E02 Avatar

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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A mother brings her two small daughters into her apartment and tells them to get to bed. She calls to her son in his bedroom, telling him that he needs to get ready for bed and that he'd better not be on the computer with the door closed.

"So help me Clinton, if you are looking at porn in there..."

She opens the door to see Clinton looking at a picture of a posed dead body in a prostitute's outfit. He's on the social networking site, and says that someone posted it. The poster was called 'Rewind99' and his ID picture only shows a shadowed face with a large scar across his neck.

The detectives enter the crime scene, a large empty room with the body in a chair. The police say that 'Rewind99' didn't use his real name on the B-Friends website, so they don't know who he is. There's no ID on the woman's body and the medical examiner says that her larynx was shattered -- she was probably killed with a large pipe or similarly shaped object. She died between 3 and 8 AM the day before. Green notes that this is a normal time for prostitutes to be out on the streets, but Cassady notes that the heels on the woman's feet don't fit. They would have been very painful to walk in; the killer must have added them after the woman had already died. Green finds that the body has manicured nails and no needle marks, casting doubt on the idea that she's a prostitute.

"She ain't a hooker, then what is she?"

"I don't know, but she's an Internet celebrity now."
—Ed Green and Nina Cassady

The owner of B-Friends, Jason Rundberg, says that the images were tasted down quickly. He has to admit that they don't know Rewind's name. A technician says that the name and address were fake, and while there's a real e-mail, the name on that account is also fake. Rundberg says that B-Friends emphasizes anonymity to allow teenagers to communicate openly and honestly, but Cassady calls him out on not providing any oversight. Rundberg repsonds that the service agreement requires everyone to use real identifying information; he and his company are not responsible for those who violate the policy. The technician says that the IP address isn't any good either. Green tells the technician to contact him if Rewind logs on again, and tells Rundberg that he needs identifying information of the people on Rewind's friends list. Cassady gets a call -- the dead woman was identified as Caroline Ann Preston, a housewife.

Douglas Preston, Caroline's husband, says that he saw the photo on a friend's cell phone at a party in Hartford. He doesn't know who would have killed Caroline, let alone pose her corpse. Molly, their daughter, says that she has a B-Friends page, but didn't notice anything odd. Green says they'll need to look over the computers in the house, and then he asks Molly to leave. Cassady asks Douglas if anyone can confirm that he was in Hartford. He gets mad, and insists that the clothes she was in weren't hers. Green asks if Caroline might have been having an affair; Douglas admits that she had cheated on him before, but she was recommitting to the marriage and wasn't unfaithful anymore. Green asks for the names of the ex's -- the first one moved to Seattle, the second, Bill Walker, is still around.

The cops talk to Walker. He denies killing Caroline and says he was asleep at the time of the murders. He half-demands, half-begs that the cops not talk to his wife. Green notes that Walker has no scar, but Cassady says that only shows that he's not Rewind 99, not that he didn't kill Caroline. Walker says that they broke the relationship off; Douglas had walked in on them. Douglas didn't get hostile but only asked Walker to leave, and Caroline said later that Douglas's only request after seeing her cheating on him was that they attend couple's counseling. Cassady asks if Caroline was into bondage; Walker says no. Bill's wife, Lily, comes by, and she backs up his alibi. They don't tell her anything else about why they're there or about Bill's affair.

Rodgers reports that Caroline died from an overdose of an anti-psychotic drug. They weren't her pills -- there was no sign of long-term use. Someone force-fed the pills to her. After she was unconscious from the pills, the killer broke her jaw in five places and broke most of her toes to get the too-small shoes on. Caroline's bra was on upside down, but there was no evidence of sexual contact. Cassady recognizes the logo on the bra as belonging to a lingerie shop she knows.


"I went there for my sister-in-law's bachelorette gift, but thanks for assuming I have crappy taste in lingerie."
—Ed Green and Nina Cassady

The shopgirl doesn't recognize Caroline, but recalls selling the exact outfit that Caroline was wearing when her body was found. She sold the outfit three days ago to some guy that talked to himself endlessly. She describes the buyer as a fat white guy. He paid cash, but had to go use an ATM when he ran short. He was only gone for 20 minutes, so he must have used a nearby ATM.

Cassady brings in security photos from all the local ATMs and says that the computers in the Preston home were clean. Van Buren thinks that this means that there was no new boyfriend, but Green disagrees based on his own experience.

"Never email when you're screwin' around with somebody that's married."
—Ed Green

Douglas's alibi checked out and Molly's B-Friends page looks innocuous. Van Buren tells them to check out the people on Molly's buddy list; when Cassady objects that all the computer files were clean, Van Buren says that computers aren't foolproof. Cassady calls this approach 'old school,' and Van Buren says that it's 'doing it right.' Then Green gets up -- he identified the B-Friends photo with the scar as belonging to a guy in one of the ATM security photos. His name is Richard Elam.

The police head to Elam's home, and the super lets them in. Elam is gone. The detectives find the same psychiatric medication that was used to kill Caroline. Upstairs, they found a bunch of photos from Molly's B-Friends page, blown up so that they're as tall as a person. They hurry to the Preston's apartment, but the place is wrecked and Molly is also gone. The detectives begin to set up the search.

That night, Van Buren tries to calm Douglas down. She lists the various techniques that the police are using to find Elam, but Douglas yells at Van Buren that the kidnapping shouldn't have happened. He insists that he never knew Richard, and that he doesn't know of any of Molly's friends by that name. The detectives say that they have someone watching Elam's apartment, and they got the contact information for Elam's mother from the doctor who prescribed Elam's medication. Van Buren sends them to find the mother.

Victoria Elam says that Richard wouldn't do anything criminal. She says that she thought Richard was doing well on his medication. They were prescribed for his paranoid schitzophrenia, when he wasn't on his medication in the past he hallucinated and attempted suicide. She says that most of his friends are online, but identifies one B-Friends screenname as someone that Elam knows in real life. Cassady reads the name -- Death Ferret, a music group. Richard knows the singer.

The singer, Rich, protests that he doesn't know Elam. He just used the B-Friends page to promote his band; Elam showed up one day and picked a fight, screaming about being the Messiah. When the cops question him more, Rich yells that everyone thinks he's the killer because he has the same name and he's in a death metal group. He tries to leave.

"Get your ass back here."
—Ed Green

Green threatens to shut down his show unless Rich knows the name of someone that does know Elam. Rich gives a nickname -- Vic Vodka, a big name fan on B-Friends. Vodka asks Rich to give tickets to certain people; he got a ticket for Elam.

Carl 'Vic Vodka' Barlow tells the police that they should go away, since he's with two ladies.

"Look, I'd love to help, yo, but now ain't exactly a good time for Vic. Feel me?"

"Feel this!"
—Carl 'Vic Vodka' Barlow and Ed Green

Green shoves Barlow against a wall. Barlow protests that he barely knows Elam and that Elam recently told him that (via a new email address) he was going off the grid and heading to Canada, so Barlow can't even get in touch with him anymore. Elam sent that last email only half an hour ago. Green demands the new email address, and orders Barlow's dates to go home.

Cassady tells Van Buren that Elam logged in at a cafe to talk to Vic; the owner says that he saw both Elam and a passenger in the backseat. Van Buren rues that Elam became so obsessed over Molly without her father knowing, and Cassady says that Douglas probably wasn't able to monitor Molly's online activity. Green says that Elam's SUV was just spotted up north.

A cop at a motel says that the SUV is a match, as is a description of the driver -- Elam definitely stopped at the hotel. He left, and the cop concludes that Elam is on foot. Another cop shows up -- people matching the descriptions of Elam and Molly were just seen in a carjacking. The cops take off after Elam in his stolen car.

After a high-speed chase, Elam is blocked in. Molly screams as Elam grabs her and begins dragging her away, but Green swiftly tackles Elam. Elam screams incoherently and rants that Molly needs him and is friends with him. Molly sobs.

"I'm the savior! The savior! We're friends, we're friends!"
—Richard Elam

Cassady asks if Richard raped Molly; she pauses, then cries more. Elam bashes his head on the window of the cop car, screaming Molly's name.

In court, Elam is arraigned on a bevy of charges. Judge Arlene Jones comments on the huge list of charges and asks for a plea. Elam begins to rant about having to save Molly, but his attorney, Walt Gaines, cuts Richard off. Gaines says that Elam pleads not guilty. The attorneys agree that Elam be remanded, and Gaines requests a psychiatric evaluation. Cops have to physically drag Elam from the room. Gaines tells Rubirosa that there's a lot of evidence against Elam, but that Elam was manipualted. He requests a sit-down.

In a conference room, Elam talks.

"Molly asked me to do it. I had to do it."
—Richard Elam

He clarifies that Molly wrote, on her B-Friends webpage, that her mother beat her. Rubirosa says that the page looked clean, but Gaines says that the page must have been sanitized. Elam says that Molly called her own mother a whore. Rubirosa asks why Elam raped Molly if he was trying to help her, but Gaines says says that Molly offered to have sex with the person that killed her mother.

"Are you saying that Molly Preston offered your client sex to kill her mother?"

"The whore has to die!"
—Jack McCoy and Richard Elam

Gaines says that the two spoke over Instant Messaging, including discussing how to get into the house and how to pose the body. They also met in person. McCoy asks where, and Elam says that Molly kissed him in person. Gaines says that, combining the webpage with Elam's obvious mental illness, a jury will find him not responsible for his actions. McCoy says that there won't be any plea negotations until they confirm Elam's story.

Rubirosa shows McCoy Molly's old webpage. Unlike the earlier page, which was green and looked innocent, this one is in black and red and includes pleas for someone to kill her mother.

"She's a whore. She nearly broke my arm today. Someone please help, the whore has to die... if someone were to end my pain and make the whore go away forever, I would give anything... even my body."
—Molly Preston's webpage

Branch says that the webpage is like a diary, and when McCoy says that it's public, Branch says that Molly's page had no last name -- it could easily be argued that there's an expectation of privacy. Rubirosa says that B-Friends is the new town square. Branch asks if they're certain that Molly expected someone to kill her mother, and Rubirosa says that 16 year old girls are just as capable of formulating criminal plans as anyone else. Branch asks if there was any evidence that the two met; there isn't any, but Rewind 99 was listed as a friend on the old version of Molly's page, indicating that Molly's chose at some point to 'friend' him. McCoy wants to pursue the case, and Branch gives a tentative approval.

Molly protests to Rubirosa that she fought with her mom, but it didn't matter. She claims that she changed her webpage when the fight blew over.

"Come on. You never fought with your mom and said things you didn't mean?"
—Molly Preston

She denies all of Elam's allegations, including the one where they met in person. She claims that she just wanted someone to talk to and couldn't help it if some crazy person took her rantings seriously. Rubirosa then hears Molly's phone, which has a 'bumblebee' ringtone -- a high-pitched tone that most adults can't hear. Molly is surprised that Rubirosa can hear it.

Rubirosa tells McCoy that it's he-said, she-said, and McCoy points out that their witness is a mentally ill rapist. He asks Rubirosa who she went to when she fought with her parents, and the lawyers decide to hunt down Molly's best friend.

Clarissa Barnes, a friend of Molly's, says that the Prestons had serious family issues, and Caroline was either ignoring Molly or criticizing her over the smallest faults. Her father never took her side.

"[Douglas Preston]'s kind of a jellyfish. And his wife is hot, so he kept his mouth shut."
—Clarissa Barnes

Barnes says that Molly had no boyfriend -- if Molly was dating someone, she would know. Cassady asks where Molly might go if she was seeing someone secretly, and the friend directs them to Flanigan's cafe.

The cashier says he never saw Elam, but knows Molly well. He goes to check the computer logs. Cassady looks concerned, and says that she's not sure this investigation is a good idea.

"Due diligence. Old school."
—Ed Green

The cashier comes back and finds the computer that Molly used. Green and Cassady take it over the cashier's protests.

CSI tech Julian Beck says that the computer is worn out from overuse, but that he found data regardless. IM exchanges, he says, aren't stored in memory, but aren't always deleted either. He found some IM conversations that Molly participated in. It's studded with acronyms and Internet slang.


"Let me see. W-M-I-R-L. Wanna meet in real life."
—Ed Green and Nina Cassady

At school, Molly is arrested. She refuses to get up from her seat, and so the detectives arrest her in the middle of class. She protests as they take her away.

Branch complains that they have little evidence and a witness with zero credibility. McCoy says that Elam's story is backed up by evidence, but Branch says that Elam's delusions will make a compelling counter-argument, and in any event they still need to prove intent. McCoy brings up the fights between the Prestons, and Rubirosa brings up the webpage. Branch says that he doesn't want to convict someone for their thoughts, but McCoy says that thoughts are private, broadcasting thoughts on the Internet is public. Branch says that the law is very murky on the issue of Internet activities, but McCoy says that B-Friends is a huge social site -- obviously not private. Branch tells them to at least see what deal the Prestons will take.

Ms. Stuart, Molly's attorney, wants a year probation. McCoy wants 15 years and a murder-2 charge. Stuart dismisses McCoy's case, but McCoy says that the webpage proves act and a criminal intent.

"She's practically written my closing argument for me."
—Molly Preston

Molly says that lots of kids write bad things about their parents online, but McCoy says that there's a difference between criticizing and soliciting murder. Douglas Preston suddenly speaks up and blames the B-Friends website. He says that there should have been safeguards to block Elam. Rubirosa says that B-Friends didn't make Molly kiss Elam, but Molly says that she just kissed him on the cheek to let him down easy. Rubirosa smirks. Molly maintains her innocence. She says that she didn't tell anyone about what she did because she was afraid of being blamed for it. She begins to cry, saying that she never wanted her mother to get hurt.

Outside, Rubirosa recalls when she and a few friends almost got someone fired, then cried their way out of it. McCoy says that Rubirosa may not sympathize with Molly, but a jury may. Rubirosa responds that Molly knew exactly what she was doing. McCoy says that Rubirosa needs to get Barnes ready to testify.

On the stand, Barnes says that she warned Molly that someone might attack her mom based on the webpage.

"And how did she respond?"

"She said, 'I hope that they do. Then the bitch will finally get what she deserves.'"
—Jack McCoy, and Clarissa Barnes (quoting Molly Preston)

Stuart reads the old webpage and says that it claims Molly and Clarissa had a falling out over a boy. Barnes says that they got past it, but Stuart says that Barnes used her own B-Friends page to start an untrue rumor about Molly sleeping with a teacher. Barnes says that she was just responding to a rumor Molly had started, also false, that she (Barnes) was bulimic. Stuart points out that B-Friends webpages seem to have a lot of lies on them, and that no reasonable person would believe things written on them.

Douglas Preston catches McCoy in a hallway. He asks if 15 years is the best Molly can get, but McCoy says that the offer is off the table. Preston says that Elam was at fault, but McCoy says that he's serving 15 years to pay for what he did, and Molly has to serve time too. Preston blames B-Friends again, and says that all the blame shouldn't fall on her. McCoy agrees that the blame should be shared, but when Preston says that Molly could make a deal to testify against the website, McCoy clarifies that he meant that Douglas should share in the blame. Douglas protests that he couldn't have done anything, but McCoy blames him for not watching what she did on the Internet.

Rundberg, the B-Friends owner, testifies about Molly's webpage. He confirms that it was hers and that she updated it over 800 times. He also confirms that Elam wrote Molly 278 I Ms; Preston wrote back 216 times. Stuart asks Rundberg to clarify what B-Friends is, and he describes it as a social-networking site and a meeting place for friends.

"A meeting place. So, like an online nightclub?"

"Without the loud music and alcohol."
—Ms. Stuart and Jason Rundberg

Stuart asks if Rundberg was responsible for stopping illegal activity. Rundberg says that the service agreement prohibits fraud, but Stuart says that he is responsible for the safety of the guests on his website. She hammers at him about letting Elam access Molly's page; McCoy objects on the basis that she's being argumentative, but is shut down by Judge Gareth Morgan. Rundberg protests that no one knew what was going on, but Stuart says that B-Friends got several emails warning about Molly's page. Rundberg tries to evade the questions, but Stuart makes him read three of the warning emails. They warn that Molly was asking people to kill her mom. Stuart flat-out states that it's Rundberg's fault, but withdraws the question before McCoy can object to it.

In the lobby, McCoy says they knew this would happen, but Rubirosa says that Stuart is very effectively shifting the blame to B-Friends.

"Who would the jury rather blame, a sweet little girl or a greedy dot-com?"

"Honestly, I kind of enjoyed watching her stick it to Rundberg."
—Connie Rubirosa and Jack McCoy

McCoy remembers that there were 4 warning emails, according to the B-Friends records, but Stuart only read three. Rubirosa says that the email was generic, but realizes that Stuart should have read it if that were the case -- it wouldn't have hurt. McCoy says to track down the sender.

On a football field, Gregg Robinson denies everything. He says he barely remembers the email, and when Rubirosa says that the email size was far larger than the three lines in the email, he says he doesn't remember what else the email said. He walks briskly across the field; when Rubirosa calls him on running away, he says he just wants to practice for the big game so he doesn't get benched. He claims not to have met Preston, and says that he threw out his computer recently so it can't be searched.

"Gregg. This is a murder case."

"Not my problem."
—Connie Rubirosa and Gregg Robinson

McCoy, talking to Rundberg after hours, demands the original email. Rundberg at first denies everything, saying that the email wasn't edited at all, but McCoy won't accept that. He threatens an obstruction charge, but Rundberg says that his legal team will fight that off based on defending the privacy of his customers. Rubirosa then threatens dozens of pornography charges based on photos that some users uploaded. Rundberg protests that his business will be destroyed, and says that pron sites are far worse and that no one is going after them because they're richer than him. McCoy rejects all his pleas and says that, if any of this goes to court, Rundberg will be destroyed in the eyes of the public. Rundberg gives in.

"This place have wi-fi?"
—Jason Rundberg

Robinson testifies about his relationship with Molly. He admits to having sex with her -- he kept quiet because she was under the legal age. He first read her webpage, then told her that he'd kill her mom. He thought she was kidding and just into weird sexual fantasies. This all happened three months before her mother was killed. After the sex, Robinson said that he wouldn't kill Caroline -- he thought Molly was kidding -- and Molly began screaming at him, throwing things, and threatened to go to the police and accuse him of rape. Robinson averted the threat by saying that he'd tell the police about the webpage if she got them involved. Robinson says that he contacted B-Friends to tell them about this.

In a conference room, McCoy meets with the Prestons and Stuart. He offers a 10 year manslaughter sentence. Molly claims that Robinson was lying for revenge -- she says that she turned down his advances -- but Rubirosa says that Robinson's roommate walked in on them. Molly again claims that she didn't mean it, and Douglas once more begs for them to give her a better deal in return for testimony against B-Friends. Molly doesn't want to take the offer. Douglas attempts to have her take it, saying that he's her father and she needs to listen to him for once, but she rejects it -- she's being tried as an adult, so Douglas can't make her take the deal. She castigates him and his wife -- Caroline for sleeping around and him for never standing up for himself or for her (Molly). Douglas gets fed up and slaps her.

"Maybe Mom was a whore, but you drove her to it."
(Douglas slaps Molly)
"I think we're through here."

"Damn right we are."
—Molly Preston and Jack McCoy

In court, Molly is found guilty. She's led away in tears.

Later, Rubirosa says that Douglas is suing B-Friends for Caroline's death. McCoy remarks that this is one way to take responsibility for one's child.