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You're not mad at me? Or, uh, embarrassed that I eluded your grasp in front of your colleagues?
~ Michael Gardner antagonizing Olivia Benson.

Michael Gardner is the main antagonist of the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Futility". He is a serial rapist who represents himself at his own trial in order to further traumatize his victims.

He was portrayed by Fred Savage, who also played Stuart in Boy Meets World.

Biography

Gardner is a handsome, charismatic, successful software engineer who is well-liked by his friends and neighbors and adored by his wife, Kimberly. Beneath his likable façade, however, he is a sadistic serial rapist who derives a sense of power from choking women until they lose consciousness and then raping them and scarring their breasts so he will "own" them forever. He is also extremely arrogant, believing that he can outsmart and manipulate anyone, even the police.

By the time of the episode, he has raped four women.

"Futility"

Gardner is first seen playing poker with Kimberly and two of their friends. When the doorbell rings, he believes it is the pizza he ordered, but is surprised to see Detective Olivia Benson of the NYPD's Special Victims Unit, who arrests him for four rapes. Gardner flies into a rage and punches Benson in the face, provoking her partner, Detective Elliot Stabler, to subdue him and take him into custody.

Gardner disingenuously apologizes to Benson for hitting her, but fiercely denies committing the rapes. His lawyer (and lover) Erin Russ claims that the detectives' evidence against Gardner, fingerprints at a crime scene, is circumstantial. When he submits to a lineup, however, one of his victims, Carrie Huitt, identifies him as her assailant, and he is charged with rape. Kimberly, who has complete faith in Gardner's innocence, pays his bail.

The trial judge provides Gardner's victims with orders of protection against him, which he quickly violates by stalking Huitt to her neighborhood coffee shop, claiming to have run into her by chance. The police cannot arrest him, however, as there is no direct evidence that he is stalking her. The following day, Benson and Stabler catch him lurking around the house of another of his victims, Karen Leighton. He claims to be walking his dog, but they arrest him for menacing regardless.

At his trial, Gardner declares that he will represent himself, with Russ as co-counsel. His first move is to argue that it was pure coincidence that he was in the same place at the same time as both women, and that he did not interact with them. The judge, Lois Preston, agrees, and dismisses the menacing charge.

Gardner files a motion to have each rape charge tried separately, which means that the DNA evidence from the fourth rape will not be introduced at trial. Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot argues against the motion, but Preston rules in favor of the defense. Gardner then moves to have three of the rape charges dismissed for lack of evidence, which Preston also grants.

Gardner calls Huitt as a witness, traumatizing her all over again, and states that she only identified him in the lineup because Benson told her what her rapist looked like. Preston rules that the lineup identification can be used as evidence, however, which provokes an angry outburst from the usually unflappable Gardner.

Knowing he will likely be convicted, Gardner decides to have "one last hurrah" by raping and murdering Evelyn Sharpe, stabbing her to death so she cannot identify him. He bites her arm during the murder, afterward cutting out the skin impressed with his teeth marks so it can't be used as evidence against him. He then hides out at Russ' house.

His luck finally runs out, however, after Russ finds the knife he used to kill Sharpe. When she confronts him, Gardner denies everything, which makes Russ so angry that she stabs him to death with his own knife. Moments later, Benson and Stabler arrive at Russ' house hoping to arrest Gardner, but they end up arresting Russ when she confesses to killing him in cold blood.

Trivia

  • Gardner is loosely based on the late serial killer Ted Bundy, who also raped and murdered women, left bite marks on his victims' bodies, was considered handsome and charismatic, and acted as his own attorney at his trial.

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