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File on Ryder Is Missing

November 09, 2002|Martha Groves | Times Staff Writer

Is Winona Ryder's case of sticky fingers contagious?

A day after the film star was convicted of felony grand theft and vandalism for shoplifting $5,560.40 in designer goods from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, a confidential report turned up missing from her file at the Santa Monica Courthouse.

Both Santa Monica police and the Los Angeles County Probation Department are investigating the highly unusual case, according to Ken Kondo, a Probation Department spokesman.

The latest plot twist for the doe-eyed actress involves a possibly purloined "pre-conviction report," which was being kept under wraps in a locked file cabinet at the Probation Department's Santa Monica area office.

The document, reported missing late Thursday, is slated to become public record for 90 days upon Ryder's sentencing, which is scheduled for Dec. 6.

Ryder was convicted Wednesday of walking out of Saks with 20 items, including a $540 Natori handbag and an $80 pair of Donna Karan socks in December 2001.

The actress faces a possible three-year prison term but is almost certain to get probation instead.

Kondo said backup copies of the probation document exist.

He would not reveal whether it contained any scintillating details of the sort that might look right at home in, say, a supermarket tabloid.

The report covers such information as marital and financial status, prior arrests, medical history, "facts of the offense" and the Probation Department's sentencing recommendation.

Authorities were said to be investigating the possibility that a court employee lifted the report to sell. Kondo sought to dispel at least one rumor.

"No one grabbed the file and ran out," he said.

"From our standpoint," he added, "we're very concerned that a high-profile case has been tampered with."

Meanwhile Friday, a previously sealed court transcript of an Oct. 24 hearing was made public. It details prosecution efforts to introduce evidence into Ryder's trial of three previous incidents in which she allegedly walked out of department stores without paying for items.

Superior Court Judge Elden Fox, who had closed the hearing, refused to allow the jury to hear evidence of Ryder's alleged actions at the Beverly Hills Neiman Marcus in November 2001 and at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills in May 2000 and October 2001.

In two of the incidents, which were videotaped, Deputy Dist. Atty. Ann Rundle said, Ryder could be "seen doing the identical conduct" as in Saks -- "selecting items, concealing those items underneath heavy garment bags or underneath her own clothing, in and out of the dressing rooms, and ultimately walking out of the store without paying for the items."

Rundle also told the judge that in one case, Ryder "was seen by security selecting a hat, wandering around the store with a hat, and then walking out the door with the hat on her head without paying for it."

Rundle argued that introducing such evidence to the jury was important, because it would help show Ryder did not make a mistake when she left Saks with items she had not paid for.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos countered that his client had "never been detained. She's never been arrested."

Calling the Saks case weak, Geragos said the evidence of the other incidents was "more garbage."

Fox ruled against letting the jurors hear of the prior acts, saying it would be "far more prejudicial than probative."

The judge released the transcripts of the closed October hearing in response to a state appeals court decision in a case brought by The Times, Associated Press and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

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