A Hispanic man is sleeping in a large room with several bunk beds when another man, also Hispanic, enters and wakes him. The first man, named Oswaldo, puts on work boots and gets ready to go as the second man gets into his own bed. Later, Oswaldo sits on a corner, looking for work. He takes out a photo of himself and his family and smiles at it. Then a car pulls up and honks, so Oswaldo grabs a can of juice, hurries to it, and gets inside.
Later, the detectives are shown Oswaldo's body underneath an overpass. The officer on the scene says that it looks like a hit and run. Oswaldo actually survived the initial attack, but the doctors think he'll die shortly. Oswaldo had a wallet but no ID. Lupo notes that the only reasons the man would be under the overpass would be if he were lost or drunk. Oswaldo's body is lifted and put on a stretcher, and Lupo sees glass fall out of Oswaldo's pant leg. As Bernard points out, this is odd. Looking at the photo in the wallet, Bernard identifies a building behind the family as being from a city in the Honduras, and guesses that Oswaldo wasn't local. Lupo sees a trail of glass extending about twenty feet. The two detectives conclude that Oswaldo kicked out the window of a car, scattering glass as the car was still moving, and also getting some down his pants. They postulate that he was then thrown out of, or jumped from, the moving car.
At the hospital, the doctor says that Oswaldo is in a grade-3 coma and is almost certainly never going to wake up. Oswaldo has several other injuries consistent with jumping out of a moving car, and also a burn on his cheek about the size of a quarter. Lupo also finds the can of juice in Oswaldo's pocket. Bernard recognizes the brand as a popular drink from the Honduras. Lupo then finds a smoked sturgeon sandwich from Irv And Sons Deli in Oswaldo's pocket. Bernard notes that this is an expensive sandwich, so Lupo guesses that Oswaldo worked in the kitchen at the deli.
The detectives show Oswaldo's photo to the deli proprietor, who says that he might be a dishwasher at the restaurant. He also identifies the man as Oswaldo to the cops. After verifying that the detectives aren't from INS, he says that another dishwasher shares a place with Oswaldo and might know the man's last name. Bernard speaks to the man in Spanish, asking about Oswaldo. That man, the person who woke up Oswaldo that morning, identifies Oswaldo as Oswaldo Morales and says that the people in the photo in Oswaldo's pocket are Oswaldo's family. Oswaldo, he adds, usually waited for work at a corner on Highway 155.
Near a convenience store on Highway 155, Lupo and Bernard take out cartons of coffee, pastries, fruit, and cheese, and offer them to a group of workers waiting for jobs. Lupo jokes that Bernard is hungry.
"If you don't hurry, he's going to eat it all."
A man there says that it's a trick, but Bernard (in Spanish) says they just want help finding the people that almost killed Morales. He shows Morales's photo around, and someone says they saw Oswaldo get into a dark green Toyota the previous morning. There were three white kids in the car, and they said they had a job for one man. One of the kids took a picture of the workers, so the man (speaking to the detectives) didn't get in the car. The detectives walk off a few steps, and Bernard guesses that the kids posted those photos on the Internet.
The detectives tell Van Buren that the glass matches the type Toyota uses. They think that Oswaldo kicked out a window trying to escape, probably after he was burned. Van Buren asks what the burn was done with, and Bernard responds that the lab thinks Oswaldo was basically branded by a heated metal or ceramic object.
"Branding. A new twist on hate crimes."
—Anita Van Buren
Bernard finds a video called 'Beaner-hunt' which was posted in the previous week. It was shot from inside a car at night and shows kids passing a mail truck, then shooting at a random Hispanic man with a BB gun. There are three voices in the video, which is the same number of people that were seen in the car Oswaldo got into. The car is also a Toyota.
"Bag a Beaner, baby!"
The detectives think the same people who almost killed Morales were the ones who took this video. Van Buren tells them to try to identify the mail truck based on its ID number.
In Peconic, the police sergeant is horrified to see the video. The mail truck belonged to the Peconic post office. Bernard asks how he could be ignorant of this, and the sergeant says that they've had nine hate crimes against Hispanic people in the past month.
"With unemployment, the economy… people blame the illegals."
"All those illegals who made subprime loans to people who couldn't afford 'em."
—Sergeant and Cyrus Lupo
Three of the hate crimes involved a green sedan. There were two drive-bys with a BB gun and one assault. Bernard asks for descriptions, but all they have is that there were three white kids, one with blond hair. The police increased patrols near places where illegal immigrants often looked for work. Lupo thinks this is why the kids moved their attacks to Manhattan. Bernard says they need a list of the local auto and glass shops.
A mechanic says that a white kid in a green sedan came by with a broken rear window, but he had no money so the mechanic turned him away without taking his information. He agrees to go to the local high school to look at some pictures. When he finds out that the kid is suspected of assaulting an illegal immigrant, he hesitates, but is made to go anyway.
"You know, I got like ten people that think they're getting their cars back today."
"They thought wrong."
—Mechanic and Cyrus Lupo
At Peconic High School, the detectives talk to Vice Principal Adams. Bernard thwaps the mechanic with a yearbook and tells him to start looking at pictures. When the man is still reluctant, Bernard shows him the photo of the battered Oswaldo.
"This is what they did to him. This ain't right."
Adams says that the Latino population in Peconic has increased by 25%, and they've had to find ways to teach more students who speak English as a second language.
"So that's where all my tax money's going."
Adams adds that Peconic High School cut back on its sports teams, which caused some resentment, and some people blamed the illegal immigrants for taking resources that could otherwise be used for sports. Then the mechanic identifies a student in the yearbook — Tony Stratton, of the basketball team.
At Stratton's house, the cops see a green Toyota in the garage, with plastic tape over the rear window. Lupo notes the license plate. When the two cops knock, a Hispanic lady with laundry opens the door. She says Tony isn't home.
"No, no. Tony no here."
Bernard asks in Spanish where Tony is, but she says she doesn't know, also speaking Spanish. Bernard gives her his card. Before she can shut the door, Lupo stops her, pauses, then thanks her and leaves. When the two detectives walk to their car, Lupo and Bernard note that the lady was wearing open-toed pumps, an unusual choice for a maid doing laundry.
"Not many housekeepers do laundry in high-heels and a sweater set."
Lupo checks his phone and finds that the Toyota was registered to a Juanita Stratton. The two figure that Juanita, Tony's mother, was the woman they just talked to, and she pretended to be a maid (by carrying laundry to the door) and to speak poor English to make them go away.
In their car, waiting outside the Stratton home, Bernard muses that Juanita is probably on the phone with her husband asking what's going on. Lupo wonders how Tony Stratton can have a Hispanic mother and still commit hate crimes against illegal immigrants. Bernard says that he understands that kind of anger, saying that where he grew up, black people often couldn't get jobs because the bosses knew they could hire illegal immigrants for a fraction of the price.
"So sure. Treat 'em humanely, and put 'em on a train and send 'em home. And that fence? Dig it deep and build it high."
"Well, don't worry. I think we found a solution for illegal immigration; it's called a depression."
—Kevin Bernard and Cyrus Lupo
The Toyota begins pulling out of the garage, and the cops rush to stop it. They say hello to Juanita.
"Do we still need an interpreter?"
She gets out of the car. The cops tell her that interfering with the police is a felony, but she denies interfering with anything. She says the car window was broken at a local ice cream shop. Tony comes out of the house, asking what's going on. The cops approach him, but Juanita yells at him to get inside and he does. She says she's calling their attorney, Mr. Mosely. The cops can't enter the house without a warrant, so they can't get to Tony.
Lupo and Bernard ask for a warrant from Judge Mark Montaldo, a Hispanic man. Montaldo doesn't buy it, saying that the Toyota that Oswaldo was seen entering was sixty miles away from Peconic, and the description is only 'a green Toyota with a broken window,' so a car in Peconic matching that description (which many cars do) isn't grounds for a search. The glass at the crime scene cannot be matched to the Stratton's car, and the car in the video posted online didn't have a broken window at all and it was too dark to make out useful details from inside the car. Montaldo then complains that the cops only picked him because he's Hispanic and they thought he'd be sympathetic to a warrant to arrest someone for committing a hate crime. He rejects the warrant for having insufficient probable cause, and urges them to come back with something else.
"This is an important case. Get it right."
Van Buren defends Montaldo, and tells the detectives to identify the other two occupants of the car. She says they can start with the blond kid, who was also the one shooting the BB gun in the video. The cops check the yearbook and see a line from Stratton.
"Throwing out a bump, to my man Bird."
Bernard, reading the yearbook, finds that a basketball player named Timothy Moore is nicknamed "Big Bird."
Diana Moore, Timothy's mother, says that Timothy is upstate that day visiting colleges. The cops lie and say they need Timothy to identify a BB gun that they think Timothy sold to someone who used it in a robbery. Diana says that Timothy does have a BB gun, but hasn't used it in years. The cops then ask where Timothy was the previous Friday. After a basketball game, Diana says, Timothy went out with Tony and then returned by midnight.
"Mrs. Moore, there are some people lying comes to naturally, you are definitely not one of them."
They tell her to tell the truth, and she admits that she and her husband were out of town that night. She goes to get her husband's number. Then Bernard gets a message on his phone. The video was uploaded from a computer at the school.
Coach Bates is dumbfounded to hear that the video was uploaded from his computer, and allows Bernard to check. Lupo asks who has access. Bates first says that he doesn't tolerate bigotry from his players.
"I want you to know I don't tolerate that crap. Racial stuff, gay stuff, I hear it from my players, they run laps."
Bernard says that the video was deleted but its footprint remains. Bates says that his team manager, Kyle Chase, has access to the computer.
In court, Timothy, Tony, and Kyle are arranged. Rubirosa says that the People want a hate crime enhancement. The defense lawyer, Mosely, a middle-aged white male, pleads everyone not guilty. Rubirosa wants remand, prompting outraged cries from the courtroom and causing Judge B. Cornelius, an older white man, to demand silence. Mosely says that his clients attend school and play team sports, and should be released without bail. Rubirosa says that the police found four videos of the defendants attacking Hispanic men in the past two months. Mosely argues that the videos are not relevant to the charges, but Rubirosa responds that the videos show that the students' parents are unable to control them. Bail is set at $150,000 for each defendant. This causes more outrage in the courtroom. As everyone goes to leave, Mosely approaches Rubirosa and says that the assault cannot be a hate crime because Tony Stratton has Hispanic parentage. He's moving to suppress the videos.
Rubirosa tells the cops that the presiding judge for the case, Gillian Berrow, suppressed the videos because they are prejudicial.
"So the videos proving the kids are prejudiced are tossed out because they would prejudice the jury against the kids."
Lupo says that they no longer have evidence that the kids were targeting Hispanic males specifically, which means they have no case for a hate crime. Rubirosa says they don't have much else anyway; the worker saw Morales enter the car but couldn't make out the occupants, and the glass can't be matched to the car. The cops then get messages and leave immediately.
A uniformed officer leads the detectives to a body. The corpse was of a Hispanic male, and there was a burn on his face similar to that on Oswaldo's. The man was beaten to death approximately a week ago (about the same time as when Oswaldo was attacked). The cops find a pipe with a Mexican peso jammed into one end; the metal seems to have been heated, so the cops guess that this was the branding weapon. Lupo finds a wallet and ID indicating that the man was Ray Alvarez.
"What country's he from?"
—Kevin Bernard and Cyrus Lupo
Alvarez was an American citizen.
On TV, Joe Chappell, McCoy's opponent in the election for the District Attorney office, says that people are scared and angry of illegal immigrants. A conservative talk-show host, Len Pewls, asks if this is McCoy's fault, and Chappell says that it is.
"If McCoy actually enforced the law, our schools and our workplaces wouldn't be filled with illegals."
McCoy turns off the TV and asks how the case is going. Cutter says that Alvarez was killed a day after Morales was assaulted, and Rubirosa adds that both victims had a similar burn mark, indicating that the same kids did both crimes. McCoy asks how the case is against the kids for Alvarez's death, and the other lawyers have to say that they don't have any evidence. The case against them regarding Oswaldo's assault is somewhat better. McCoy tells them to join the cases and let the assault bootstrap the murder. Cutter worries that the murder will tank the assault case. He wants to proceed on the assault and wait on the murder; the police might come up with some new evidence. McCoy says that this is politically impossible.
"I see. We prosecute the assault of an illegal alien while we backburner the murder of an American citizen. I can write the editorials myself."
"Now political image even trumps legal reality?"
"Here's the legal reality. We're joining the two cases. Clear?"
—Jack McCoy and Michael Cutter
In Berrow's chambers, Moseley protests that the cases are unrelated and so cannot be joined. Cutter and Mosely bicker, with Mosely eventually saying that Oswaldo was an illegal alien and was thrown from a car, while Alvarez was an American citizen and was beaten to death. Rubirosa says that both men were Hispanic and were branded with the same device. Mosely wants evidence that the weapon was the same, and Cutter wants to wait until trial. Berrow, an older white woman, rules for Mosely. She wants evidence that the brandings were performed with the same instrument. Additionally, Mosely wants to be able to examine both victims (to verify the prosecution's analysis of the evidence), and Berrow grants this as well. Cutter says they need to examine Oswaldo as soon as they can.
At the hospital, a receptionist repeats that Rubirosa and Rodgers are there for Oswaldo. She seems disbelieving. Upon questioning, she says that Oswaldo was released.
"Discharged? He was in a coma on life support. Who was he discharged to?"
Because Oswaldo was an illegal alien, he was repatriated to the Honduras. The receptionist doesn't know what happened to him after that.
"Then what? You just left him on the tarmac?"
"Pursuant to policy, he was turned over to Honduran authorities. He's their responsibility, not ours."
—Elizabeth Rodgers and receptionist
McCoy remarks that this is depraved. Rubirosa says that it made financial sense; it would have cost $200,000 a month to keep Oswaldo alive, while the medical evacuation to the Honduras cost only $70,000.
"Well, for a hundred bucks they could have put him in a rowboat off Jones Beach."
McCoy says that the Prosecutor's Office will issue a material witness warrant and will pay for Oswaldo's care themselves; this will let them get Oswaldo back into the country so the defense can examine him and Berrow won't throw out the motion to join the two cases. Cutter says that this is going to look bad politically too.
"Paying for an illegal immigrant's medical bills with taxpayer money while millions of Americans can't afford healthcare… I'm sure you know what you're in for."
"Since when do you care about my political image?"
"Well, all things being equal, Jack, I do want you to win this election."
—Michael Cutter and Jack McCoy
The lawyers and Rodgers ask Maria Morales, Oswaldo's mother, to let them take Oswaldo to America. Another relative, Xiomara Morales, agrees with the lawyers and Rodgers, especially once the lawyers say that Maria can come with. Later, in court, Rodgers testifies that the shape, size, and depth of the burns are identical, and both burns have the same irregularity. All the dimensions match that of the coin found by Alvarez's body. McCoy, from the audience, watches Cutter ask Rodgers if the weapon is the same, and she says that it is. Berrow grants the motion to join, telling Mosely he can save any questions he has of Rodgers for the trial.
Outside, Diana Moore and Juanita Stratton are talking to the press. They claim that McCoy is just trying to look tough by prosecuting their children. They say he should be going after the illegal immigrants who, they claim, are invading all aspects of their lives and are committing numerous crimes. Pewls is one of the members of the press, and he rushes to catch McCoy as he leaves the court building. Pewls asks McCoy if he's aware that someone filed a complaint against him with the attorney general due to his using public funds to fly in Oswaldo and pay for his medical care. McCoy says that Morales has to be present to satisfy the constitutional rights of Moore, Chase, and Stratton.
"Mr. Morales's presence serves the defendants' rights to confront the witnesses against them, Mr. Pewls."
Pewls asks if it bothers McCoy that Oswaldo is getting medical care that most of the residents of the city cannot afford.
"It bothers me that most people in this city can't afford high-quality medical care. It should bother you too."
Pewls then asks for a comment on an upcoming article in the Ledger about McCoy once hiring an undocumented worker to work as a nanny and housekeeper. McCoy says he won't comment until he sees the article, and insists he's only there to talk about the case.
"I intend to make justice available to everyone in this jurisdiction. Justice is not a finite resource. Because it's given to one doesn't mean that it's denied to another. But if it's denied to one, it's denied to all."
The lawyers go down the stairs to the sidewalk. Cutter asks about the nanny, and McCoy won't answer.
Later, Chappell goes on TV to discuss McCoy once having an undocumented household worker. McCoy mutes the TV and explains the situation to Cutter and Rubirosa. He says that he and his ex-wife Ellen were divorcing in 1991. Ellen hired a nanny who later turned out to be undocumented; Ellen was too stressed to check the nanny's papers. McCoy and Ellen fired the woman once they found out (a year later) and paid the woman's taxes. Cutter notes that this implies that someone went through McCoy's divorce records to find this out. McCoy says that this is his own problem, not Cutter's, and he should focus on the case. Then Cutter gets a message saying that Kyle Chase and his new lawyer, Ellen Weiss, want a meeting.
Chase says that he won't go to jail for a murder he wasn't involved in. He tells the lawyers that Stratton and Moore wanted to go back out after Oswaldo got away. He refers to Oswaldo as a 'Beaner' before pausing, apologizing, and saying that he meant 'Hispanic.' Rubirosa looks contemptuous. Chase says that he didn't want to go out again, so he stayed home. Weiss says that Chase will plead to assault and will testify against the others in exchange for a favorable deal. Cutter says that Chase clearly has no alibi or evidence exculpating him, and so there's only Chase's word that he wasn't involved with the Alvarez killing. Chase protests his innocence, but Cutter says that they'll talk about sentencing after Chase testifies.
In court, Chase testifies that the three friends were driving around Peconic when they saw a Hispanic person and Moore shot him with a BB gun. They did that for a while, and one time, when one of their victims showed them a rude gesture, they assaulted him. This happened about once a week. Eventually, the three moved their activities to Manhattan to avoid being caught by the Peconic police. Moore made the branding tool, and Tony knew a place where illegal aliens gathered to look for work.
"Tim and Tony wanted to pick up an illegal and burn the coin on his face, so everyone would know he was illegal."
Chase says that, the day they went into Manhattan, they arrived early and waited for the undocumented workers to show up. Eventually Morales approached the car. Chase identifies Oswaldo as a Mexican, and Cutter harshly corrects him and says that Oswaldo is Honduran. Chase continues, saying that Tony used his knowledge of Spanish to put Oswaldo at ease. Kyle then heated Timothy's pipe/coin weapon with a lighter, and then Timothy branded Oswaldo with the coin. Oswaldo began to fight back, so Timothy began beating him up. When Oswaldo kicked out the window, Timothy pushed Oswaldo out of the car and the three returned to Peconic. Later, Timothy and Tony wanted to go back out and actually kill someone, but Kyle didn't want to, so he stayed home.
On cross-examination, Mosely makes Kyle admit that Timothy and Tony never actually told him that they'd killed Alvarez or showed him the weapon. Chase has to admit that he doesn't know for a fact that Alvarez was killed by Timothy and Tony, but instead he's speculating.
"And the more you speculate, the lighter your sentence."
Kyle admits that he's scared to go to prison, and Mosely continues to attack Kyle's credibility. Berrow tells Mosely to move on. Mosely asks if Kyle might have colored his testimony based on fear of going to prison. Chase says, "Maybe." On redirect, Cutter asks Chase if he told the truth when describing what the trio did to Oswaldo. After a long pause, and a warning from Berrow about a possible contempt citation, Chase says that he told the truth.
Ramirez Lopez, an illegal immigrant, testifies that he lives in Peconic and was stopped by the trio of defendants, who broke his nose and ribs and told him to go back to Mexico. He identifies Stratton and Moore as two of the boys who assaulted him (Chase took the plea deal and so is not in the courtroom). Mosely has Lopez admit that he pays no taxes.
"You admit, you cheat our government! You steal from everyone here!"
Lopez says that he'd feel upset too if illegal immigrants took jobs in his country, but he has to feed his family.
"Yeah, that's all fine and good. But you're an admitted thief and liar."
Mosely moves that Lopez's testimony be stricken. Berrow denies the motion, and excuses Lopez. As Lopez leaves, Cutter rests his case. Suddenly, Lopez is stopped by INS agents in the courtroom, and is taken away for deportation. Cutter complains, but Berrow says there's nothing she can do, and that he should act fast to stop Lopez from being deported in case he's recalled.
Juanita Stratton says that she entered the country from Argentina as a student. Twenty-three years later, she's married her husband and raised a family. She states that she's proud to be an American, but is also proud of her Spanish heritage.
"My son does not hate Spanish people."
On cross-examination, Cutter asks if Tony was ever called racial slurs. Juanita says that Tony has, and so knows that the words hurt and he should not use them. He's also complained of being excluded from certain activities because of his heritage, but Juanita says that Tony wasn't bothered by this. Cutter doubts that Tony really didn't care about having friends, and Juanita says that Tony cared, but he wouldn't act out because of it.
"…Tony doesn't have hate in his heart."
"So you say."
—Juanita Stratton and Michael Cutter
Cutter brings up Juanita pretending not to understand English when the police arrived at her home. Juanita says that she never said she was a housekeeper, but Cutter says that she still pretended to be one. Juanita is annoyed.
"It was then who made a mistake. How could anyone look at me and think I'm a groncho?"
Cutter asks to hear that last word again. Rubirosa begins to write something down. Juanita says that 'groncho' is an Argentine word meaning 'simple person,' and is a synonym for 'compesino.' Cutter says that he knows what 'compensino' means, but that 'groncho' means something different. Looking at Rubirosa's paper, Cutter reads that 'groncho' is a derogatory word for a lower-class, poor, or unemployed person. Juanita tries to play it off, but Cutter won't have it.
"I never taught my son that word."
"No, but you taught him that attitude."
—Juanita Stratton and Michael Cutter
Mosely objects when Cutter begins to harangue Juanita about this, and Cutter ends his questioning.
McCoy, on the phone with Ellen, tells her to just tell everyone the truth and that they have nothing to hide. Cutter, coming in, says that the jury's been out for four hours. Rubirosa comes in, saying that Berrow wants to see them — the jurors were seen watching a Len Pewls special on illegal immigration. McCoy wonders how a TV got let into the jury room, so Rubirosa says that this was on an iPhone.
Berrow watches the special on a laptop.
"When is this country going to wake up to the fact that we have been invaded?!"
The juror, Barry Di Grappa, says that his cousin emailed him the podcast. He says he only showed it to four of the jurors. Berrow dismisses him from the jury, and Di Grappa is led out by a guard. Cutter says that this isn't enough, but Berrow says that the case has torn the city apart and she won't declare a mistrial and subject the city to another month of deliberations. The other jurors all swore that they weren't affected by Pewls' show.
In court, Moore and Stratton are found not guilty for Alvarez's murder and for attempted murder on Oswaldo. They are, however, found guilty of first-degree assault on Oswaldo.
In the hospital room, Cutter tells Maria that Moore and Stratton got five years. She doesn't think this is enough. Cutter tries to comfort her, saying that Oswaldo survived.
"This is not a life!"
She is distraught. Rubirosa says that Maria can sue them in civil court, but Maria doesn't want money. She just wants Oswaldo to wake up.
Later, McCoy proofreads a brief that Rubirosa wrote. Cutter gets a call, and then tells the others that Maria Morales had Oswaldo taken off life support that morning. The three are silent for a moment, and then McCoy says they can now charge Moore and Stratton with first-degree bias murder. Cutter points out that, since the two were found guilty of assaulting Oswaldo, the murder charge should be a slam dunk. Rubirosa wonders if Maria knew that they could charge Moore and Stratton with murder if she took her son off life support. McCoy doesn't care.
"Why not? Everyone games the system."