Workers operate machinery at an urban construction site, with the junior foreman, Gary Talbot, telling his subordinate Carlos Lazaro to be careful with the materials he's hauling. Sarah Walsh, a local resident, jogs up to Talbot and complains that the site's use of heavy equipment in the pre-dawn hours needs to stop. After Nolan blows her off, Sarah goes back to her apartment and tells her husband Rob that he should do something. Rob blows her off too, and the Walshes start to fight when a crane at the site collapses.

A small army of emergency vehicles arrive along with Detectives Lupo and Bernard, who see Carlos' body being pulled from the wreckage. They then come across the developer, Wayne Hardy, giving an impromptu statement to the press where he insists that his company is committed to safety. Hardy then talks to the detectives and expresses concern that homicide detectives have arrived, but Bernard says that until they know what happened, they're treating Carlos' death as a possible murder.

The detectives talk to Hardy as well as his senior foreman, Carl Nolan, both of whom insist the site was safe. Bernard and Lupo, however, note that the crane which collapsed is a smaller crane than the one they should have been using according to the bid paperwork Hardy filled out. Nolan says they used the right crane for the job and insists there were no safety violations, referring them to City Inspector Eddie O'Connor. The detectives go to O'Connor and he agrees with Nolan, saying that while there were noise complaints relating to late-night drilling, there was no indication of safety violations at the site. However, when the detectives talk to a forensic engineer, she shows them that the crane was only rated for 6 tons/lift but was lifting an average of 8 tons/lift. The crane collapse was caused by it breaking down under the strain of it lifting too much weight.

Back at the precinct, Van Buren says that between the night jobs and the crane overloads, it seems like someone was trying to finish the project very quickly, and the cops wonder if bribes were paid to hide the safety violations. Van Buren also sends the detectives to the forensic accountant.

->"Great. After a morning of forensic engineering, nothing beats a little forensic accounting."\\
--Cyrus Lupo

The accountant tells them that the construction site kept cash on hand for incidental expenses, but is missing thousands of dollars that aren't accounted for in the receipts. Bernard theorizes that the missing cash went to pay bribes, and the accountant tells them that Talbot was in charge of the money.

At his home, Talbot tells the detectives that the site was a $200,000,000 project, so a few expenses might slip through the cracks and not be documented. He also tells them that the night shift has another foreman who could have taken the money. Lupo asks about the crane overloads, but Talbot says he wasn't in charge of the crane and the overloads weren't his idea. He gives Lupo written records verifying that O'Connor signed off on every excessive load and night shift. Before he can continue, his wife Sandra comes in to say that their daughter Lacey needs help. Gary leaves to help Lacey while the detectives go to find O'Connor. The detectives investigate the approval documents and find that, while the phone number on the cover sheet matches O'Connor's office, the phone number on the faxes themselves is different and has an area code from the Hamptons.

->"A City Inspector faxing from the Hamptons on a weekday afternoon."\\
"Nice work if you can get it."\\
--Cyrus Lupo and Kevin Bernard

The detectives trace the number and go to O'Connor's place in the Hamptons, where they surprise O'Connor. They reveal that they know one of Hardy's construction companies rented the home to O'Connor's wife at a very low rate, and they also found out that O'Connor has a fancy car and sends his daughter to a private boarding school that his salary shouldn't be able to cover. They arrest O'Connor and take him back to interrogation, where he confesses to having signed off on the crane overloads in exchange for cash bribes from Nolan and a promise of a plum job in the future from Hardy. He says, however, that the night foreman was the one who delivered the money, and Gary Talbot was not involved.

After Hardy and Nolan are arrested, Bernard tells Lupo and Van Buren that they have a problem: the night foreman says he got his bribe money from Nolan, which means the missing petty cash is unaccounted for. The cops wonder if someone else was being bribed with the missing money, and Van Buren tells them they need to find out before Hardy and Nolan are arraigned.

Late at night, the detectives are trying to find out what happened to the missing money but are making little progress. Another detective comes in with the contents of Lazaro's pockets; he also mentions that Lazaro's wife Amelia is in a non-responsive state in the local hospital. Bernard finds the hospital bill being paid for Amelia and finds that the payments exactly match the money missing from the construction site. They doubt that Carlos could have stolen the money for his wife's care by himself, and conclude that Talbot stole from the construction site in order to pay for the medical care of Amelia. Lupo wonders if Talbot was just trying to be nice and give to the needy. Bernard, however, doubts this.

->"Nobody's that nice. Not even Robin Hood."\\
--Kevin Bernard

A doctor at the hospital, Henry Graber, says that Amelia Lazaro was brought in one month prior and has been non-responsive ever since. He adds that her symptoms indicate that she almost drowned; when the detectives say that the 911 call indicated she was found in her home, Graber says that she inhaled water but didn't start choking until hours later. Graber then estimates that Amelia fell into water between 10 and 12 hours before she ultimately collapsed, and that she would have begun acting erratic shortly after first inhaling the water. He leaves, but a nurse (Jamie Peltzer) comes in and mentions that Amelia's only recent visitor besides Carlos was Gary Talbot; his visits coincided with the dates when Amelia's care was paid for. Peltzer then goes back out and the detectives wonder if Talbot paid for Amelia's care because he felt somehow responsible for what happened to her.

At the precinct, the detectives and Van Buren theorize that Talbot and Amelia were having an affair and were in a hot tub or pool when they began to fight and Amelia inhaled water. Van Buren says that it sounds like this has nothing to do with the crane collapse; when the detectives confirm this, Van Buren says that they need Talbot to testify against O'Connor and they shouldn't do anything to screw that up. She tells them to instead treat this as an entirely new case and to search Lazaro's home for proof of the affair.

Lazaro's landlord Flora Escobido tells the detectives that Amelia Lazaro was acting erratic the day she collapsed, as Graber had predicted, and also notes that Amelia was afraid of water. She insists that Amelia couldn't have been having an affair; she was devoted to Carlos. Once Escobido leaves, Bernard finds Amelia's prepaid phone and notes that it only has two numbers in the address book: her husband's and Talbot's. The detectives confront Talbot with what they found, but while he admits to stealing the petty cash to pay the hospital, he won't say why or admit to the affair. The detectives thus decide to try talking to Sandra, Gary's wife.

Sandra is spoon-feeding Lacey when the detectives talk to her. She says that she gave Amelia the number with Gary's phone; Amelia helped take care of Lacey a few days a week. When the detectives ask why Gary didn't tell them this, she says that Amelia is an illegal immigrant and the Talbots pay her under the table; Gary probably just didn't want to admit that to the cops. She also denies that Gary was having an affair. Bernard finds water wings, and Sandra says that Lacey has water therapy classes.

The detectives tell Van Buren they hit another dead end: they found that Talbot was working at the Hardy construction site all day on the day that Amelia drowned; there was no point at which he could have been involved. Van Buren wonders if Sandra is somehow to blame; maybe she found out that Gary and Amelia were having an affair and attacked Amelia in the pool where Lacey has water therapy. Bernard says this may be the case and reveals that they found a divorce petition filed by Gary Talbot; though it was withdrawn, the detectives think Gary may have wanted to leave Sandra for Amelia and Sandra may have attacked Amelia as a result. They use Sandra's metro cards to trace her movements the date Amelia drowned.

At a pool, an attendant says that Amelia and Sandra used to come with Lacey, though due to Amelia's hydrophobia she just helped Lacey in and out of her wheelchair and handed things to Sandra but didn't approach the pool itself. The visits ended one month prior when the two argued and then Amelia fell in the pool, though the attendant didn't see if Sandra actually pushed her. Nonetheless, the detectives persuade ADA Rubirosa to file a warrant for Sandra's arrest, then arrest her at home while Gary protests and Lacey stares blankly at the scene.

Sandra is charged with second-degree attempted murder. Her lawyer Mr. Goodwin pleads her not guilty and tells arrangement judge Walter Bradley that Sandra should be released without bail because Lacey needs her care. He explains that Lacey has static encephalopathy, a condition which renders her unable to move, eat, or go to the bathroom unassisted. Since Gary has to work, Sandra is the only one to take care of Lacey. Rubirosa points out that this is only the case because Sandra put Lacey's caretaker into a coma. Bradley sets bail at $200,000, though Goodwin then complains to Rubirosa that the Talbots can't afford that. Goodwin tells Rubirosa that her case is very weak and suggests that Sandra be allowed to plea to second-degree assault and receive probation, but Rubirosa won't go below 5 years in prison.

[=McCoy=] complains that they have no witnesses to the actual assault and no forensic evidence. Rubirosa says that the detectives found a pool float with Amelia's fingerprints on one end and Sandra's on the other, but Cutter and [=McCoy=] say the defense will just argue Sandra tried to pull Amelia out of the pool, which is legally renunciation and could serve as a defense from the attempted murder charge. [=McCoy=] then leaves, but not before telling Cutter not to screw up Talbot's ability to testify in the crane collapse case. Cutter tells Rubirosa they need to retrace Sandra's and Amelia's steps the day Amelia drowned.

Escobido tells Rubirosa that Amelia was acting erratically, which she'd already told the cops, but adds that Amelia told Escobido not to get a doctor because Sandra had threatened to have her deported if she did that. This allows the lawyers to tell the Talbots and Goodwin that they can't argue renunciation because Sandra didn't completely renounce her crime; while she pulled Amelia out of the pool, she talked her out of seeing a doctor, so Amelia almost died anyways. Goodwin says that renunciation won't come up; their defense is that Lacey spasmed and kicked Amelia into the pool, and that Sandra then just tried to pull her out. The Talbots didn't tell anyone because they didn't want to endanger the city aid they get for caring for Lacey. Sandra, however, rejects this defense and says she won't impugn her daughter to save herself. She admits to arguing with Amelia, getting angry, and pushing her, accidentally knocking her into the pool. She begs for mercy so she can take care of her daughter. Cutter agrees to let Sandra serve a suspended sentence as long as she admits what she did and Gary continues to pay for Amelia's care, though out of his own salary.

In court, Sandra testifies that she confronted Amelia about her affair with Gary and pushed her into the pool, after which she pulled Amelia out and told her to leave them alone. Cutter realizes he missed something and asks how Sandra learned about the affair. She claims that she intercepted a message Gary left for Amelia on her phone. Cutter questions her about the timeframe, and when she can't convincingly answer, he retracts the plea deal.

Later, Cutter tells [=McCoy=] that Amelia's cellphone had no calls from Gary's at any point; Sandra was lying. However, she found that Amelia had called a Dr. Lucas Ziering the night before she drowned; the next morning, Ziering called Sandra, and later that morning Sandra shoved Amelia into the pool. Rubirosa comes in and says that Ziering has filed reports of anonymous threats; the lawyers wonder if Amelia was making the threats and had called Ziering that night to make another.

At Ziering's office, Ziering plays a vitriolic message from Amelia in which she tells Ziering he will burn in Hell for what he is doing to Lacey. Ziering tells the lawyers that he warned Sandra he wouldn't be able to treat Lacey if Amelia kept harassing him. The lawyers ask what his treatment was, and he says that he was going to use estrogen therapy to stunt Lacey's growth, use surgery to remove her reproduction system, and otherwise keep her in a childlike state. He admits this approach is controversial and says that he warned the Talbots to be discrete. Ziering admits that his call to Sandra the morning that Amelia drowned involved him telling Sandra that, since Amelia was still harassing him, he was not going to treat Lacey any more.

Gary refuses to talk to the lawyers, even when Cutter says that he won't consider leniency for Sandra otherwise. He says that he's worried Cutter will try to scare off the next doctor they find to treat Lacey.

->"My little girl will never walk. Or talk. And if she grows up in this condition..."\\
--Gary Talbot

He explains that Lacey's condition will become harder to treat as she ages (though he doesn't explain if this is because the condition will worsen or because Lacey will be bigger and thus harder to feed and move), and he couldn't handle this; that was why he filed for divorce a year ago. Cutter guesses that he retracted his divorce petition after he and Sandra agreed to treat Lacey to keep her in a child's body forever, where they could manage her condition more effectively. Talbot, angry, throws the lawyers out.

Rubirosa tells [=McCoy=] that Sandra has been in contact with a Dr. Connor Dunning; they think Sandra found someone else to give Lacey the surgery and estrogen therapy. Cutter says he's moving to stop the procedure on the basis that it's an assault. Rubirosa disagrees but Cutter is adamant.

->"Well, what would you call disfiguring this poor kid? Tearing out their uterus, forcing hormones into her veins to stunt her growth..."\\
--Michael Cutter

He says that he's researched the therapy and that nobody even knows what the long-term effects are, plus the hormone injections might kill Lacey anyways.

->"The procedure's not medically necessary. It's all for the parents' convenience, to save their marriage."\\
--Michael Cutter

[=McCoy=] says that they already have a victim, Amelia Lazaro, and they need to focus on her instead of on Lacey, who may not even be the victim of a crime. After [=McCoy=] leaves, however, Cutter says they're adding a charge of 'conspiracy to commit assault' to their case against Sandra, and says that if the judge buys it, then [=McCoy=] will likely go along. Rubirosa is skeptical and warns Cutter that he might be going too far, but Cutter says he'll convince her too.

Goodwin and Cutter argue about the new charge in front of Judge Bradley, who is also skeptical of Cutter's claims but agrees to hold a hearing on the issue.

->"Mr. Cutter, I agree the procedure is ethically questionable; that does not mean its a crime. But, I will give you a chance to change my mind."\\
--Walter Bradley

In court, Dr. Nicole Peller testifies that the proposed treatment for Lacey is untested, its benefits are mostly theoretical, it would cause Lacey severe pain, would require a long recovery, and could cause dangerous complications. She also says that there's a slippery slope problem.

->"Keeping Lacey small might make her easier to care for, but then, why not amputate her legs to make her more portable? Remove her larynx to stop her from crying?"\\
--Nicole Peller

Cutter asks if the convenience of Gary and Sandra should outweigh the costs to Lacey, and she says no.

Later, Dunning testifies that he monitored the Talbots and confirmed that they truly love their daughter; they don't want the surgery to make their own lives more convenient but because they believe it's best for Lacey. Goodwin asks if the surgery isn't perhaps excessive, but Dunning says that Lacey will never need the organs and body parts that are being removed.

->"Lacey's never going to give birth, breastfeed, or have sex, so those organs are unnecessary, and removing them eliminates the potential for cancer or emotional confusion."\\
--Connor Dunning

Cutter says that the purpose of medicine is to heal sickness, and Lacey isn't sick; there's nothing wrong with her sex organs that require removal, nor is it medically necessary that she be kept in a child's body. Dunning is forced to admit this.

Sandra testifies that the Talbots are poor and have to make do with underpaid, incompetent help; still, they pay about $6000 a month to treat Lacey, almost none of which is paid by the state. She refuses to give Lacey up for an institution, but says that Lacey would not survive without intensive round-the-clock care. She insists that she would never harm Lacey and that she loves her daughter. Cutter asks if Sandra would consider the procedure even if money were not a factor; Sandra says yes, because it will help Lacey. Cutter insists that the procedure is just for convenience and says that, if Sandra really would subject Lacey to the procedure even if money was not a factor, that proves that Sandra's concerns for the procedure aren't practical (e.g., that if Lacey grows up, she would need specialized equipment for treatment that the Talbots can't afford). Instead, Cutter says that Sandra just wants to keep Lacey in her childlike state, where she's not as bothersome to care for and is adorable besides. Sandra breaks down into tears, insisting that she loves her daughter, and Bradley excuses her. Later, he rules that Cutter did not satisfactorily prove that the procedure is an assault on Lacey, and denies Cutter's motion to charge Sandra with conspiring to assault her daughter. He also tells the lawyers to work out a plea deal.

The lawyers meet by Amelia's bedside. Rubirosa says that she agrees with Bradley, but Cutter says that Sandra has done nothing but lie to escape the consequences of her actions towards Amelia and Lacey, and he isn't done trying to stop her. Later, when the lawyers and Talbots meet to work out a plea, Cutter offers to suspend Sandra's sentence, but says he'll only do it if she and Gary agree not to subject Lacey to the procedure. The Talbots are horrified, but Cutter threatens to imprison Sandra if they reject the plea, so Sandra signs the plea agreement.

[=McCoy=] storms into Cutter's office and demands to know what he was thinking.

->"No operation. No hormone therapy. You've attached an illegal stipulation to a plea! The judge will repudiate this--"\\
"I can sell him on it."\\
"I'm repudiating it! You've gone completely off the reservation here!"\\
--Jack [=McCoy=] and Michael Cutter

Cutter says he was inspired by a time when [=McCoy=], up against a defendant with Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy who kept injuring and killing her children, offered her a plea deal which would compel that defendant to be sterilized (see: [[Recap/LawAndOrderS5E7Precious Precious (episode)]]). [=McCoy=] points out that the judge in that case threw out the plea deal and castigated him. Cutter, however, refuses to back down; he says that [=McCoy=] can take over the case and withdraw the plea himself, but if he doesn't, Cutter will keep going. [=McCoy=] leaves without another a word.

In court, Bradley says he doesn't want to grant the plea deal. He says that he already ruled the operation is permissible, but Cutter says that he only ruled that its legal, not that the court can't stop someone from doing it if there's a compelling reason (in the same way that parking a car on a certain street may be legal, but a court can rule that a stalker not be able to park there if the stalker's victim lives in the area). He's cut off by [=McCoy=], however, who publicly repudiates the plea agreement's stipulation that the Talbots not allow Lacey to have the estrogen treatment and surgery.

->"My office doesn't sanction that stipulation and will remove it."\\
--Jack [=McCoy=]

Cutter is humiliated, but can't withdraw the plea agreement or do anything else before Bradley accepts the plea. Sandra Talbot will have a five year suspended sentence, and Gary Talbot will continue to pay for Amelia's medical care, but they will not be stopped from treating Lacey as they see fit.

As [=McCoy=] and Cutter leave the office, [=McCoy=] says that he's grateful he was stopped from imposing the sterilization stipulation in the Munchausen's case, and says that Cutter will be grateful someday that [=McCoy=] was willing to reign him in.


* {{Expy}}: Wayne Hardy is one of [[Creator/DonaldTrump Donald Trump]], down to his vocal inflections.
* RippedFromTheHeadlines: Of the Ashley X case.