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Times In Law & Order: SVU When The Bad Guy Got Away

Beloved NBC network procedural Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has now lasted 22 seasons, and one simple reason for the show's popularity is its consistency. A typical episode features lead detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) investigating a heinous crime "ripped from the headlines," "Fin" Tutuola (Ice-T) being appalled by a new fad the kids are into, a notable guest star as a prime suspect, and the court working to bring the case to justice. The comforts of the series' formula are what's made SVU the longest running prime-time network drama, still on the air at nearly 500 episodes!

But as with real life, sometimes justice isn't served and the culprit doesn't face the punishment they deserve. Those episodes always rattled longtime fans but successfully shook up our expectations of the show. Here's a list of those rare but pivotal moments when the bad guy "got away with it" on Law & Order: SVU, leaving Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Benson to fight on another day.

The murder case that hit home for the SVU team

A case that already heavily impacted the Special Victims Unit was in the season 7 episode "Venom," where detective Tutuola's troubled nephew Darius Parker (guest star Ludacris) confesses to the murder of a mother and child. But it's in season 8's "Screwed," when Darius goes to trial for his crimes, that everything becomes even more personal for the detectives as their secrets are dredged up in court.

These secrets include the pregnancy of detective Stabler's ex-wife and whitewashing his daughter's DUI earlier in the series, as well as detective Benson illegally wiring money to her half-brother. After several other shocking developments, including the revelation that he was a product of incestuous assault, Darius is found not guilty by the jury.

While Darius gets to walk away a free man, he still loses his family in the process, including his half-brother. Tutuola assures Darius that he won't bother following him around, knowing his nephew will be glancing over his shoulder for the rest of his life anyway, and walks away while Darius looks on. You can escape the legal system in Law & Order, but it doesn't mean you walk away unscathed, either.

In 'Pornstar's Requiem,' an adult film star fights for the truth

Loosely based on the story of actress Belle Knox, per Decider, "Pornstar's Requiem" features Evie (Hannah Marks), a college student-turned-adult film star who is sexually assaulted by two fellow freshmen. The case becomes complicated thanks to Evie's career and the men's insistence that everything between them was consensual. The SVU team debates the lines between sexual fantasy and reality while the prosecution is unsure about how to explain Evie's videos to a jury.

After the detectives successfully play the two suspects against each other, the jury does indeed find the lead suspect guilty of rape. But the judge sets aside the verdict due to "lack of sufficient evidence" and admonishes Evie for appearing to seek publicity.

ADA Barba files an appeal, but the damage is already done. Expelled from college and shamed by her parents, Evie feels like she has nothing left to lose. The detectives can only watch helplessly as she returns to the only place that will seemingly accept her in adult film.

In 'Sick,' Stabler and Benson encounter a strange and powerful predator

This season 5 classic guest stars Will Keenan as William "Billy" Tripley, a child-like toy store owner and billionaire whose sleepovers with actual children lead to allegations of abuse. While "Sick" is clearly based on the similar charges made against Michael Jackson, right down to the outcome, Tripley's guilt is never really in question for detectives Stabler and Benson. Like the accusations surrounding the King of Pop, however, wealth and greed complicate whatever good the partners can do this episode.

When a young boy named J.J. posts disturbing messages online, the police discover that he may have been abused by Tripley, who then paid off the parents for their silence. Another sleepover friend — and cancer patient — April also accuses Billy, and despite his insistence to an aggressive Stabler that he'd never hurt a child, it looks like he won't escape prosecution.

However, everything falls apart. J.J.'s father refuses to let him testify against Billy and the case is dismissed. Then in a major twist, April's cancer and charges are all a lie: Her grandmother has been poisoning her and even created the false allegations against Tripley.

While the episode ends with Billy celebrating his acquittal, Stabler is sure they'll get him, confident of an eventual win.

An 'easy' case unravels in 'True Believers'

After music student Sarah Walsh (Sofia Vassileva) is sexually assaulted at gunpoint in her own apartment, the detectives are able to track down the prime suspect, Michael Wedmore, as well as his weapon. But the prosecution's case runs into serious trouble when famed attorney Bayard Ellis (Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Homicide: Life On The Street star Andre Braugher) takes his case pro bono in order to highlight the double standards and violations of the NYPD.

Ellis not only claims that Walsh's identification of Michael as her attacker is motivated by race, as Wedmore is African American, but the lawyer alleges in court that the gun could have been planted by Officer Nick Amaro. A final bombshell is dropped when Ellis reveals that Walsh had sex with an anonymous black male the night before the assault. With a persuasive defense and little DNA evidence, the charges are dropped against Michael. Detective Benson tries to confront him outside of court, but Ellis is unshaken in his resolve — he may be a "true believer" but so is she, both of them confident about what they think really happened that night.