Nowhere Man (Law & Order)
|Law & Order episode|
|Episode no.||Season 14
|Directed by||Martha Mitchell|
|Written by||William Fordes|
|Featured music||Mike Post|
|Cinematography by||John Beymer|
|Original air date||March 31, 2004|
Veteran ADA Daniel Tenofsky is found murdered, shot in the chest. As Briscoe and Green investigate, they discover Tenofsky was a poor law student and never graduated from Brooklyn Law School. But further investigation reveals 'Tenofsky' was an assumed identity for the victim; his social security number and other items of identification are bogus. The detectives discover the real Daniel Tenofskie (actual spelling) is a simple dock worker at the Port of New York, who was the struggling student in Brooklyn and had also failed to complete a correspondence course in accounting at a college in Phoenix, Arizona around the same time. The ADA's real name was Jacob Dieter and he was an outstanding law student at the same Phoenix college, where he assumed Tenofskie's identity (and changed the spelling of the surname) while 'Jacob Dieter' vanished. The motive behind Dieter's identity-theft of Tenofskie is never revealed.
McCoy is shocked by the revelations regarding Tenofsky, whom he knew well, having worked numerous cases with him. McCoy regarded Tenofsky as a first-class attorney and a man passionate about his job and the law. “Who did I eulogize last night?” he says. DA Arthur Branch has more immediate concerns; Tenofsky’s deceit regarding his credentials as a lawyer means the decisions in the many cases he prosecuted are now open to question and appeal. Branch meets with Appeals Court Judge Medonis and assures the judge that “McCoy vouches for Tenofsky’s skills as an attorney.” Judge Medonis says he has to review fifty cases Tenofsky prosecuted in order to satisfy himself the decisions and convictions are valid. He instructs Branch to have McCoy review half the cases (with the judge reviewing the rest).
As McCoy and Southerlyn pore laboriously through Tenofsky’s case files, Southerlyn grasps one that looks "promisingly thin." The case was the alleged murder of a newspaper loading dock worker by two mobsters, who offered to testify that a prominent mob boss ordered the hit, in return for immunity from prosecution and placement in the witness protection program. But Tenofsky never brought the case to trial and furthermore, he stripped the file of all the key evidence, including statements by all parties, Grand Jury testimony and other investigative reports. Shortly afterward, Tenofsky refused a promotion and then transferred out of the high-end trial division to the appellate division of the DA's office. McCoy decides to further investigate this case and the tampered file.
Southerlyn visits lawyer William Wachtler, who represented the two mobsters in the original case, Anthony Biscotti and Frederico Libretti, a.k.a. ‘Biscuits’ and ‘Books’ respectively, who are also present. Wachtler asserts his clients were guaranteed immunity from prosecution for the loading dock worker murder by the original grand jury and under Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) section 190, designed to protect whistleblowers, the DA’s office has no case. Subsequently, McCoy and Wachtler appear before a judge where McCoy argues that, as all records relating to the case have gone missing from the case file, there is no evidence that a grand jury hearing ever took place, or that immunity was ever granted and therefore CPL 190 doesn’t apply. The judge agrees and McCoy instructs the police to re-investigate the murder of the loading dock worker, Robert Parenti.
Briscoe and Green interview Parenti’s widow, Sharon. She reveals her husband’s position was actually a no-show job, a scam organized by the mob. Parenti often complained about the little money he earned from the scam, which angered the mob guys. He told his wife "If anything happens to me, Biscuits and Books done it." Based primarily on this evidence, Briscoe and Green arrest Biscuits and Books and charge them with the murder of Robert Parenti.
The mobsters and their lawyer Wachtler have nothing to say to the police or McCoy and Southerlyn. Branch tells McCoy that there is no case against the mobsters unless they recover Parenti's body. McCoy puts together the men's alibi (working construction) with something he recalls was not removed from Tenofsky's case file; a work-order for a bridge in South Manhattan. He theorizes Parenti's body is buried there and the police duly recover Parenti's body, buried in a bridge abutment. Immediately Biscuits and Books confess to the murder but restate their original claim, that they murdered Parenti on the order of a high-ranking mob boss, and again ask for immunity from prosecution for the Parenti murder plus witness protection in return for testifying against the boss. Pressed for a name, they identify mob boss Franco Tortomassi as having ordered the hit. McCoy offers a deal including some prison time followed by witness relocation, which Biscuits and Books accept. McCoy asks the mobsters why the original case was dropped and the case file stripped of evidence; Books replies they offered Tenofsky $50,000 to do so and Tenofsky agreed. McCoy is skeptical, remarking that Tenofsky/Dieter "cared less about money than any man I know."
Franco Tortomassi is arrested by Briscoe and Green and charged with Parenti's murder. In a meeting with McCoy and Southerlyn, Tortomassi strongly asserts his innocence before departing. McCoy is puzzled as to why Tortomassi and his lawyer didn't use the meeting to negotiate a deal (plea-bargain). At the trial, both Biscuits and Books testify that they killed Parenti on the orders of Tortomassi. Tortomassi's lawyer attempts to paint the men as career criminals and murderers who’d say anything to save their own skins. The night following the mobsters' testimony, McCoy is troubled by a minor conflict in their respective statements; Books claimed Biscuits received the order to kill Parenti, but Biscuits stated it was Books. Southerlyn brushes it off as an inconsistency and points out that Tortomassi's lawyer didn't notice the discrepancy. But McCoy is concerned over Wachtler's preparation of his clients for testimony and asks Southerlyn to investigate Wachtler.
McCoy and Southerlyn confront Wachtler in his office. Southerlyn discovered that Wachtler attended Brooklyn Law School during the same period as the real Daniel Tenofskie; they even took a class together. McCoy alleges that Wachtler thus discovered Tenofsky/Dieter's identity theft and used this knowledge to blackmail Tenofsky during the first investigation of Parenti's murder. This was the actual reason Tenofsky dropped the case and removed the evidence from the file. With the bridge about to be worked upon and Parenti's body likely to be discovered, Wachtler and his clients were compelled to murder Tenofsky. Wachtler denies everything but McCoy shows Wachtler the work order for the bridge where Parenti's body was recovered, stating that Tenofsky deliberately left this piece of evidence in the file as he wanted to be able to prosecute the mobsters one day. Wachtler, Biscuits and Books are arrested and charged with the murder of Jacob Dieter. It is further revealed that the no-show jobs scam at the newspaper was run exclusively by Biscuits and Books, who acted alone in killing Parenti. Tortomassi had no knowledge of the scam and is, indeed, innocent of Parenti's murder.
At a press conference New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, flanked by Branch, announces three dangerous mob criminals have been given "long prison sentences". McCoy and Southerlyn watch on from the room before departing. On the court steps, Southerlyn notes that they have been unable to contact Tenofsky/Dieter's brother in Arizona; a disillusioned McCoy doubts Tenofsky even has a brother. Southerlyn asks who will collect Tenofsky’s personal effects, to which McCoy replies, "Personal effects? They’re more like props."
- This episode was inspired by the murder of Jonathan Luna.
- "Nowhere Man" is also the title of a well-known Beatles song, written by John Lennon; Tenofsky's body is found only a few feet away from Strawberry Fields, a memorial to Lennon located in Central Park.
- Briscoe, played by Jerry Orbach, mentions how he had considered being a lawyer at a point in his life during a conversation with his partner Green. The irony in this is that Orbach's first appearance on Law and Order was as a Defense Attorney in the second season episode "The Wages of Love".