SVU Episode #13-3: Blood Brothers

Recap: This storyline was an imaginative twist on the Arnold Schwarzenegger situation. In real life, Arnold had an affair with his housekeeper, who got pregnant and had his baby.  Neither of them mentioned that to Arnold’s beautiful and politically-connected wife, Maria Shriver. Housekeeper and child lived in the mansion with Arnold, Maria, and their kids for over a decade. Maria finally learned the truth when The Enquirer broke the story. The fact that no crime was committed then says a lot about Maria’s self-control.

In this episode, a shy 13-year-old girl is pregnant but her hymen is still intact. SVU is called to find out who the father is. The girl won’t disclose at first, claiming that she was impregnated miraculously by God. That might work on another network, but SVU isn’t that kind of TV show. The detectives go looking for a human culprit. After dispensing with the usual suspects (a priest, a teacher who’s on the sex-offender registry), the detectives hone in on Arturo, the girl’s schoolmate and best friend. Arturo denies having sex with her, but points to Tripp Raines, the 13-year-old son of a wealthy and powerful Ambassador. Arturo’s mom used to work for Tripp’s family; Arturo introduced the girl and Tripp. Tripp cockily admits to taking the girl’s “cherry,” but doesn’t care that he’s messed up her life.

The girl finally admits she had sex with Tripp, once, in his bedroom, during a party at his house. Tripp said she was pretty, they kissed, then he pushed her down on the bed and had sex with her. She said “no,” but Tripp asked if she wanted him to like her; she said yes, and he continued. Afterward he sent her roses and a note that said, “Still dreaming about you.” She loved him, thought they were going to be married, and dreamed he would make her a princess.

The detectives go to the Raines family mansion and try to talk to Tripp’s father, the Ambassador, without his wife. “We have no secrets from each other,” the Ambassador’s wife sniffs. Uh oh, start the scary music, because you know what that statement means. This episode won’t end until the wife’s still-beating heart has been torn from her chest by some colossal secret her husband is harboring.

Meanwhile, the detectives find Tripp bludgeoned to death in Central Park. Turns out Arturo did it. He had figured out that he was the Ambassador’s son – which got him and his mom kicked out of the Raines house (with a hefty payoff). And Arturo was deeply in love with the girl, and offended by his half-brother’s cavalier attempt to make her get an abortion.  You can’t solve every problem with money, Arturo sobs. With all the emotions swirling around his adorable little head, Arturo beat Tripp to death with a rock. (Is it just me, or was that cute little actor the furthest thing from a homicidal maniac you could imagine?)

Verdict: B+

What they got right: Let’s handle the most uncomfortable physical fact first. Yes, a girl who’s had sex could still have an intact hymen. It doesn’t mean a virgin birth is about to happen, just that that piece of anatomy is stretchy and tough. This doesn’t actually come up in many sex offense cases.

There is no florist-client privilege. These days, a lot of people believe in privileges that don’t actually exist. I’ve had people argue that information they told their hotel, their postman, or their yoga instructor was privileged. Nope. Basically, you have a privilege for things you tell your doctor, spouse, attorney, or  religious leader.   That’s all. And in certain circumstances, even those can be circumvented.

Sex-crime victims often don’t want to identify their assailant. I’ve actually seen remarkably similar cases – usually involving teenage girls – many times. Often, the victim is in love with her assailant and her allegiance is with him, not the police.

The sex crime in this episode was a tough call. Olivia thought they had a good forcible-rape case against Tripp, but the ADA disagreed. I saw the ADA’s point. It’s hard to try a case where the victim initially lied about who raped her, even before you get to the muddled issue of consent here. But reasonable minds could disagree. I can see the debate between the ADA and Olivia happening exactly that way in real life.

What they got wrong: After they determined that the possible assailant was a 13-year-old boy, the case would no longer be handled by a sex-offense DA. It would go to the unit that handles juvenile cases. If Tripp was charged, it would be as a juvenile. In D.C., the case would go from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to the Office of the Attorney General, next door.

Hurry up – and wait. After Tripp admitted having sex with the girl, the detectives kept running around trying to confirm that actually happened. In most cases involving 13-year-olds, the detective would simply wait until the girl had the baby, and then run DNA testing to confirm that the suspected father was the biological father.

Finally, in most cases of a pregnant 13-year-old girl, no authorities would be called at all. There are countless teenage girls who give birth and no police officer is ever notified. The idea that the girl’s school would call the police is a nice one – but not always the case in real life, where schools see so many underage pregnancies they become numb to them. Often, I would meet girls who’d given birth to babies a year or two ago – and who’d just recently found the courage to come forward and identify their adult assailant. No reports had been made by anyone at the time of the girl’s pregnancy or birth.

About Allison Leotta

Comments

  1. David DeLee says:

    I thought this was a good episode too, but, while watching, I wondered if the detectives would have been called in at all too, since the girl was “simply pregnant” and had made no complaint or charges of rape. Your posted validated my thinking.
    Also, when once they had the girl’s version, it clearly came down to he said, she said regarding the force issue. One the girl from a poor family fighting a rich and powerful family would probably never win, even if she pressed charges — which she never did.
    A question though, in you post, you mention “the case would go from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to the Office of the Attorney General, next door.” Is this because D.C. is not a state? Do they have a different system, i.e. no local district attorney/family court system? Are all crimes committed in D.C. federal crimes?
    I’m curious, how does all that work?

    Thanks,
    David DeLee
    Fatel Destiny – a Grace deHaviland novel

    • Allison Leotta says:

      Hi David, Thanks for checking in! As you suspected, D.C. is a special case. Because it’s a federal city, it doesn’t have a state DA’s office handling the street crimes. Everything goes to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes both violations of federal law and of the D.C. Code. That unique jurisdictional quirk was how I managed to be a federal prosecutor specializing in street-level sex crimes.

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