Law & Order: Season 5, Episode 8

Virtue (23 Nov. 1994)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
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McCoy charges a city councilman with "larceny by extortion," after a female colleague claims that she had to sleep with him or lose her chance at partnership at their law firm.



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Title: Virtue (23 Nov 1994)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Councilman Spencer Talbert
John Ramsey ...
Sarah Maslin
Todd Locke
Lily Knight ...
Penny McNeely
Anne Lange ...
Evelyn Talbert
Marty Pine (as Eric LaRay Harvey)
Nancy Addison ...
Edith Nash


A car accident leads Detectives Briscoe and Logan to investigate a rape. The dead woman from the accident had been sexually assaulted and was being driven to the hospital by a co-worker who ran off after the car accident. It turns out they both worked for a highly respected and generally popular city councilman, Spencer Talbot. He denies rape of course but the police learn that he may have assaulted the office manager at his former law firm as well as an associate, Sarah Maslin. When Maslin later admits that Talbot forced her to have sex with him by threatening to withhold a much deserved partnership in the firm, ADA McCoy decides to try something else: Talbot is charged with larceny by extortion. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

23 November 1994 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Jack McCoy: [closing summation] Give me the keys to your house, or I'll charge you with murder. I'm the D.A. I can do it. Give me ten thousand dollars, or I'll tell the Feds about that shipment of heroin I saw you pick up at J.F.K. I'm the D.A. They'll listen. What would you do? I can tell you what I'll be doing for the next ten years or so: I'll be in Attica, because what I did is called extortion, and it's a felony. Sleep with me, or I'll tell your boss that you're under indictment for fraud. It's not ...
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Featured in The 47th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (1995) See more »

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Is Your Body Your Property?
14 August 2011 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

The episode is up to the usual standards we associated with the first decade or so of the series. A young woman is found dead in a car crash. It's discovered that she was a passenger, that she appears to have been raped shortly before she died, and this leads the detectives to a congressman who has a pattern of coercing his employees into having sex with him.

It raises some interesting issues. First of all, what is "rape" anyway? The area between consensual sex and forcible rape can get pretty murky at times, however much we might wish it weren't so.

How about if, as in this instance, you're a smart, pretty female lawyer who has worked assiduously for a firm for eight years in pursuit of a partnership? You're on the brink of success that you've earned according to any reasonable standard. Then, your boss tells you to take off those pantyhose or you're out the door. You comply. Is THAT rape? McCoy hasn't enough evidence to convict the politician of rape but he does an end run around the problem by charging him with "larceny by extortion". That's a charge usually reserved for the protection racket. Give us $5,000 or we blow up your grocery store.

But it requires the definition of one's own body -- in this case the victim's -- as "property", just like anything else you own -- a car or a computer. It's a good argument against slavery and, in fact, libertarian philosophers have linked it to an argument against taxation. But jurors aren't philosophers. They're bus drivers. Will they buy it? SHOULD they buy it? And how about another instance of sexual harassment by that slimy pol? Years earlier, he cornered an employee at a party and began ripping off her dress in a fire exit. An untimely appearance by other guests interrupted the proceedings. The victim is going to bring a civil suit against him but he buys her off with fifty thousand dollars and she accepts rather than go to court. How good a supporting witness will she make? With a slight twist, it begins to sound as if SHE is blackmailing HIM.

Another observation. It was a good thing for New York City to have this series being filmed there. Every episode is filled with minor roles. It provided employment for anybody who looked the part and could act in some minimal sense. Young black kids who looked and sounded like street rats had jobs. Gray-haired old ladies in wheelchairs could get an occasional gig. And for those not in the union there were dozens of silent parts for people with ordinary faces, of all colors and ages.

All together, the series, without being a masterpiece of the cop genre, was one of the few respectable presentations on the tube, otherwise a "vast wasteland", as Newton Minnow described it long ago.

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