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She could be taken so easily...
~ Joel Thayer threatening to kidnap Janet Rudman's daughter.

Joel Thayer is the main antagonist of the Law & Order episode "Censure". He is a corrupt judge who concocts an elaborate scheme to blackmail an ex-lover by threatening to kidnap her daughter, as revenge for her ending their relationship.

He was portrayed by the late David Groh, who also portrayed Jacob Lowenstein in an earlier episode, "Indifference".

Biography

Early life

Thayer is an influential, well-respected judge in New York City. Unbeknownst to his wife, Melissa, he regularly has affairs with female subordinates and acquaintances, including Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid, who had been his clerk out of law school. Kincaid entered the relationship willingly, charmed by his attention and flattered that he treated her like a colleague, but broke it off after three months when Thayer became possessive. Thayer threatened her at first, but backed off for fear of a lawsuit, and bought her silence with a glowing recommendation letter to his old friend District Attorney Adam Schiff, who hires her to work under Executive Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone.

Sometime later, Thayer started an affair with Janet Rudman, the wife of a wealthy acquaintance. As with Kincaid, he became jealous and possessive, so she ended the relationship. Enraged, Thayer decided to get back at her by sending an anonymous videotape of her young daughter, Laura, threatening to kidnap her.

"Censure"

A disguised Thayer stalks Rudman while she is on an outing with Laura, surreptitiously videotaping them. He briefly talks to Laura while Janet is distracted, and steals her doll and rides away on a bicycle he stole from Ron Blocker, a disgruntled ex-employee. He then disguises his voice on the tape and makes threatening remarks about how easily Laura could be "taken", and anonymously delivers the tape to Rudman's apartment along with a blackmail note threatening to kidnap Laura unless Rudman pays him $20,000.

Frightened, Rudman calls the police, and NYPD Detectives Lennie Briscoe and Mike Logan start investigating, having Rudman deliver the money to the kidnapper so they can arrest him. Ex-con John Blanchard picks up the money, having been paid to do so by Thayer, and Briscoe and Logan arrest him. Blanchard identifies Thayer as the man who paid him to take the money, resulting in a very public scandal once the press learns of his involvement. Thayer releases a statement declaring his innocence, and hires high-priced defense attorney Arthur Gold to defend him.

When Stone charges Thayer with attempted kidnapping, Thayer accuses Kincaid of targeting him as revenge for rejecting her. Trial judge (and Thayer's colleague) Walter Schreiber dismisses Blanchard's identification, and Thayer tries to punish Kincaid by lodging a complaint against her with the New York Bar Association's Disciplinary Committee. During the ensuing hearing, Thayer claims that Kincaid pursued him aggressively, but that he refused to sleep with her. and that he only recommended her to Schiff to get rid of her. Kincaid, meanwhile, has no choice but to admit to sleeping with Thayer, but denies targeting him. Ultimately, the committee censures Kincaid, resulting in her law license being suspended.

Kincaid confronts Thayer on his yacht, and they get into an argument in which he blurts out that he had chosen Rudman as a lover because he knew that she would never reveal the affair for fear of losing her family. Kincaid then goes to Melissa, who is divorcing Thayer, and persuades her to testify against her soon-to-be ex-husband. Melissa testifies that she found the newspaper clipping Thayer used to make the blackmail note. Defeated, Thayer accepts a plea bargain in which he agrees to plead guilty to attempted grand larceny in the second degree, for which he will serve 18 months in prison and surrender his law license.

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