Reasonable Doubt

Season 15
Episode 1521
Air Date 05/07/14
TV-14

Benson and Murphy drop by a busy TV studio to question high-profile director Frank Maddox about a serious crime - the sexual assault of his daughter, Chelsea. She claims he fondled her in the laundry room and he denies it, shifting any blame to the craziness of his actress ex-wife, Catherine. He says she's just jealous because he and her younger sister, Rose (now a starlet on his TV show), fell in love. But Catherine maintains Frank's guilt and Chelsea's story remains consistent, corroborated by the family nanny who witnessed Frank and Chelsea exit the laundry room on the day in question. The charges appear even more certain with the emergence of salacious photos of Rose, all posed by Frank.

A media firestorm erupts in which both sides point fingers and accuse each other of releasing the photos. Rose and Catherine's middle, not famous sister, Mavis, mentions she alerted Catherine to Frank's initial affair with Rose; Chelsea's assault represents a pattern. SVU returns to question Frank, who finally admits to being in the laundry room, but not to the assault. With the media circus still in full swing, Frank goes public in an interview with Rose and puts a spin on the allegations, again shrugging them off as the vengeful plot of his ex-wife. This incites Catherine to confront him on set and, more importantly, to charge into SVU. She wants a trial.

And she gets one, but it unravels fast. Frank's lawyer easily discredits Chelsea as simply memorizing lines from her mother and paints Catherine as a betrayed ex seeking revenge. However, what surprises Barba comes next - the family nanny flips her testimony and denies ever seeing Frank and Chelsea exit the laundry room. This deflates the prosecution's case and, during recess, triggers a spat between Catherine and Mavis, the latter accusing her sister of ignoring Frank's tendencies while riding his coattails to success.

After Frank makes a charming turn on the stand (and appears to sink the case altogether), Benson notices Mavis missing in the courtroom. She follows up with the forgotten sister and a hunch turns into the truth - Frank raped Mavis when she was 13. In an effort to seek justice, Mavis goes public and the primetime interview blankets the airwaves. But before court reconvenes, Frank and Rose flee to France and he sidesteps the jury's ensuing conviction. He contends his innocence at a press conference in Paris while Catherine praises justice in New York. And lost in between, caught in the crossfire of two powerful parents, is Chelsea. Will she come out of this okay? Benson and the team certainly hope so...

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