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Judge Orders Ryder Tried on Charges of Shoplifting

Hearing: Saks employee testifies that she saw the actress cut security tags from two purses. Defense accuses witnesses of lying on the stand.

June 07, 2002|ANNA GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Winona Ryder was ordered Thursday to stand trial on shoplifting charges after a court hearing in which a Saks Fifth Avenue security investigator testified that she saw the actress snip anti-theft tags off two expensive black purses that she never paid for.

Beverly Hills Superior Court Judge Elden S. Fox ruled that there was enough evidence for Ryder to be tried on felony charges of second-degree burglary, grand theft, vandalism and possession of a drug without a prescription.

Fox denied a defense motion to reduce the charges to misdemeanors and ordered Ryder, who is free on $20,000 bail, to return to court June 14 for arraignment.

Ryder, 30, appeared for the second day of her preliminary hearing with a blue sling on her bandaged right arm, which her attorney said was fractured Monday when a TV news camera struck her as she tried to enter the courthouse.

The injury prompted the judge to call a two-day break in the proceedings and to order the media to stay 10 feet from Ryder.

She has maintained her innocence through her attorney, Mark Geragos, who said Thursday outside court, "She didn't steal any of these items."

The star of "Girl, Interrupted" and "The Age of Innocence" is charged with shoplifting $4,760 worth of merchandise Dec. 12. In all, 20 items allegedly were shoplifted, including two hats, two beaded evening bags, an off-white sweater and a sleeveless shirt, according to court testimony.

Ryder could face three years and eight months in prison if convicted.

During Thursday's session, the security investigator, Colleen Rainey, testified that she first saw a disheveled woman on a security camera who she believed was homeless and then realized was Ryder.

Rainey was told by her manager to go to a second-floor fitting room to watch the customer more closely.

Rainey said that when she peeked through slats of the dressing room, she saw Ryder kneeling and cutting off the antitheft tags.

The actress cut her finger in the process, Rainey said, leaving a bloodstain on a purse that she left in the dressing room.

Rainey said Ryder then wrapped two purses, three hair bands and several pairs of socks in tissue paper and stuffed them in a bag. Those items, according to testimony from Rainey and Saks security manager Kenneth Evans, were never paid for.

On cross-examination, Rainey said she did not videotape or photograph Ryder's actions.

Geragos questioned the agent's truthfulness, suggesting that a garment bag might have blocked her view during the few minutes she was peeking through the door.

"So you have the ability to see through slats and around corners?" he asked.

Evans testified that he watched Ryder for an hour and 20 minutes on a store security camera. She was wearing a long cashmere coat and carrying a red Saks bag, a garment bag, a purse and a plastic bag, he said.

Evans said he never saw Ryder stop to pay for any items before leaving the store.

He also testified that he recovered four sensor tags--some with material still attached to them--from a coat pocket in the Chanel boutique in the department store.

Under cross-examination, Evans acknowledged that he learned that Ryder did pay for $3,700 worth of merchandise from Saks that day, including $300 Gucci shoes, a leather jacket and two Yves St. Laurent blouses.

The other items seized from Ryder were not listed on receipts, he testified.

Two law enforcement witnesses also were questioned.

Beverly Hills Police Det. Mark Parker said Thursday that he booked a yellow pillbox and two white pills taken from Ryder into the jail's evidence locker Dec. 12.

Those pills contained oxycodone, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department criminalist Tracy Arnold.

Arnold said the pills were a generic brand of Percoset, a painkiller.

Outside court, Geragos said Ryder had a prescription for the painkiller. He also accused the Saks witnesses of lying on the stand.

"That testimony was as close to full-blown perjury as I've ever seen in a courtroom," he said.

And he blamed the department store and the district attorney's office for going after Ryder. "I have evidence that Saks targeted her as a celebrity ... they found a more-than-willing partner in a district attorney," he said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Julie Jurek countered that the case against Ryder is strong and the witnesses truthful.

"We don't have an ax to grind," she said.

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