Avery Parker, a transgender teen, is taking photos on a park bridge when she's approached by a band of high school students who begin insulting and shoving her. The ringleader, Darius McCrae, nabs her camera. When she tries to get it back, Darius pushes her and accidentally causes her to fall off the opposite side of the bridge. He and the other teens run away, as onlookers take videos of the incident.
Detective Sonny Carisi (Peter Scanavino) and Sergeant Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) visit Avery in the hospital, where she lies in bed with a broken femur and describes the incident, including the physical violence and verbal assault. Detectives Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) and Fin Tutuola (Ice T) check social media and find three separate online videos of the incident. They trace the videos to students at a local public school, where they ask the principal to identify the three main offenders and pull them out of class.
Carisi questions Markus Green and Keon Williams, who reveal that Darius pushed Avery. Darius' mother, Cheryl McCrae (Adrienne Moore), arrives and vouches for her son, saying he takes care of his sister and goes to church. When they reveal what Darius did, she's stunned. Darius admits it was his idea to taunt Avery, but says the push was an accident - he just didn't want his friends to think he was gay. Benson decides to bring in Avery and have her make an ID on all three of the teens, which she does with ease.
The next day, in family court, Markus and Keon are sentenced to probation, but Darius is told he will receive three months in a juvenile detention facility. Cheryl takes issue with the harsh sentence and decides to speak with a lawyer, while Darius expresses his regret by giving SVU an apology letter for Avery, complete with drawings of her. The team brings Avery the letter, which she finds emotionally moving. She expresses forgiveness for Darius. Her parents leave the room to discuss next steps with the SVU when suddenly the hospital calls a code blue. Unfortunately, Avery dies of a fatty embolism, a result of the fractured femur. According to her doctor, there's no question the embolism was directly linked to the fall.
ADA Kenneth O'Dwyer visits the SVU and lets the team know the DA's office will be taking over the prosecution. Fin protests that Darius is only 15 and should be charged in family court, but O'Dwyer replies that in light of recent attacks on transgender people, Darius should be charged as an adult with second-degree manslaughter, and he wants to attach a hate crime. At the McCraes' apartment, Rollins breaks the news to Cheryl, who's completely devastated and argues that the only person Darius hates right now is himself. In fact, Avery's family is in agreement and don't want Darius to be charged as an adult. Avery believed in forgiveness and wouldn't want Darius to be sentenced so harshly.
In court, O'Dwyer screens footage of the incident, demonstrating that Darius verbally and physically assaulted Avery. Carisi testifies about Avery's post-incident statement and injuries, while Avery's doctor states that her death was clearly a result of the fall. Then Darius' lawyer calls his teacher to the stand, and she speaks about Darius' good behavior and lack of bullying history. Next, Dr. Peter Lindstrom takes the stand and argues that, as a teenager, Darius doesn't have fully developed impulse control; his actions had nothing to do with hate and everything to do with fear and insecurity. O'Dwyer challenges the statement and maintains that hate crime laws exist to prevent these very incidents from occurring, but Dr. Lindstrom replies that hate crime laws should be for adults, not children. Darius takes the stand and speaks freely about his guilt and regret. O'Dwyer questions Darius repeatedly about whether his actions were his choice, leading Darius to break down and apologize.
Finally, Darius' lawyer calls Mr. Parker to the stand as a surprise testimony. Mr. Parker shows the judge Darius' apology drawing and tells the court that Avery forgave him and wouldn't want to make the tragedy worse by separating another child from his family. The judge says she was moved by the character witness testimonies, especially Mr. Parker's, but hate crimes can't be eradicated without punishing the perpetrators. She finds Darius guilty of manslaughter in the second degree, with the hate crime attached. Darius is sent to a juvenile facility until he turns 18, at which point he'll be transferred for the remainder of his seven-year sentence. Cheryl cries for her son. Benson makes eye contact with her, looks down in sadness and leaves the courtroom.