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Saks Manager Planned to Lie, Former Worker Says

Security supervisor vowed to get Ryder 'one way or another,' he says. D.A. calls witness a disgruntled employee.

November 02, 2002|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

A former Saks Fifth Avenue employee testified Friday that a key prosecution witness in the shoplifting trial of Winona Ryder said soon after the arrest that he planned to lie in order to help convict the film star.

Former employee Michael Shoar, one of four witnesses called by Ryder's lawyer as he presented the actress' defense, said he had lunch with Saks security manager Kenneth Evans after Ryder's arrest in December and that Evans told him he wanted to "bring her down -- one way or another."

Under cross-examination, Deputy Dist. Atty. Ann Rundle suggested that Shoar was a disgruntled ex-employee. Shoar acknowledged that he held a protest in front of the Beverly Hills department store last month and plans to file a civil lawsuit against the company.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos also called two Beverly Hills police officers and the spokeswoman for the district attorney's office to the witness stand Friday.

At day's end, Geragos said he was considering calling Ryder to testify in her own defense before he rests his case Monday. Geragos said Ryder, 31, wants to take the witness stand "in the worst way," but he believes he has already created reasonable doubt in jurors' minds that would result in a verdict of not guilty.

Jurors are expected to hear closing arguments in the case Monday. The Oscar-nominated actress is charged with grand theft, burglary and vandalism.

Ryder has avoided talking to crowds of reporters during the trial that began last week but signed autographs for two teenage fans Friday afternoon. "Lots and lots of love and peace," read one of her notes.

On the witness stand Friday, Shoar testified that he had two brief conversations with Evans about the case, once on the telephone and once during a lunch in Beverly Hills. Shoar said Evans was anxious and nervous during lunch and said that he wanted to "nail that rich Beverly Hills bitch on shoplifting charges," Shoar testified.

Evans, who was the first prosecution witness, had denied making such statements to Shoar when he was cross-examined by Geragos earlier in the week.

Evans told jurors that he followed Ryder on surveillance cameras and watched her walk out of the store with more than $5,500 in stolen merchandise.

He also testified that he later found four sensor tags that matched items found in Ryder's possession in a jacket in the Chanel department of the store and that Ryder said she took items as research for a film role.

In his testimony Friday, Shoar said Evans never discussed details of the case with him.

Ordered to Stay Away

During cross-examination, Rundle confronted Shoar with a letter from the Saks store in Costa Mesa ordering him to stay off the property because of his disruptive behavior.

Shoar, who worked at the Costa Mesa store until July, testified that he has called several Saks executives complaining about a Saks employee who Shoar said broke into his house and left a note for his pregnant wife.

He said that he has been worried about his wife's safety and that he warned the executives of his plans to file a lawsuit.

Rundle asked Shoar if he was angry with Saks Fifth Avenue. He said no, prompting several people in the courtroom to laugh and the judge to admonish them.

Rundle accused Shoar of threatening to talk to Geragos if Saks did not do what he wanted -- fire a Saks employee who had an affair with his wife. Shoar denied that allegation. He also insisted that his testimony about Evans' statements was true.

Shoar said that when he went to see Geragos, he was looking for an attorney in his own case. But he said Geragos told him that would be a conflict of interest and referred him to a different attorney.

In other testimony Friday, the investigating officer in Ryder's case told jurors he did not book the four sensor tags into evidence at the Beverly Hills Police Department. Instead, Det. George Elwell said, he locked the tags in his desk drawer with the case file.

Beverly Hills Lt. Gary Gilmond told jurors he gave a news conference saying that Ryder had been observed on store security video cutting tags off merchandise. Gilmond said he based his news conference on a statement by security guard Colleen Rainey, who said she saw Ryder cut tags off merchandise. Gilmond said he later learned that the video did not show tags being cut.

Geragos also called district attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons, who testified that she wrote a news release with the same information but said she later realized her mistake. "I certainly told everybody who called about it that the error was mine," she told jurors.

Geragos has suggested during the trial that Saks employees changed their stories after prosecutors realized that Ryder was not seen on tape cutting tags.

Transcript Released

Judge Elden S. Fox also released a partial transcript Friday of arguments on pretrial motions that took place last week. The transcript was released as a result of an appellate court decision that Fox had erred in closing the hearing without making adequate legal findings.

During the hearing last week, Fox ruled that the district attorney's office could not present as evidence a statement Ryder signed in the Saks detention room that read: "I, Winona Ryder, agree that I have stolen these items." The judge did, however, rule that prosecutors could present several statements that Ryder made at Saks after her detention that she took the items in preparation for a future film role.

Geragos had challenged the admission of the film statements, arguing that she should have first been read her Miranda rights against self-incrimination.

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