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One Ryder Count May Be Tossed

Courts: The D.A.'s office asks the judge to drop a drug-possession charge, but says it's ready to try the actress on three theft-related allegations.


Prosecutors asked a judge Wednesday to drop a drug-possession charge against Winona Ryder but said they are ready to go to trial on shoplifting and theft charges as scheduled Tuesday.

Ryder's attorney, Mark Geragos, hailed it as a partial victory. He had maintained for months that the actress had a prescription for the pills seized by police after she was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting last year at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office said dismissal would be in the interest of justice, based on a sworn statement Geragos gave. Prosecutors said Ryder lacked the "criminal knowledge" needed for a conviction.

Although prosecutors would not elaborate, Geragos said the statement was from a physician confirming Ryder's prescription, which had been given to prosecutors earlier. Deputy Dist. Atty. Ann Rundle filed a motion Wednesday saying the "declaration, if true, raises a question as to whether the defendant possessed the requisite criminal knowledge necessary" for a violation of state law. The law does not apply to a person who possesses the drug with a doctor's written prescription.

Superior Court Judge Elden S. Fox will consider the request Tuesday, when Ryder's shoplifting trial is scheduled to begin in the Beverly Hills courthouse. Ryder is accused of taking about $6,000 worth of merchandise from the Beverly Hills store. Prosecutors say she stole purses, hats, hair bands, socks, a sweater and a shirt.

Prosecutors charged Ryder, 30, with possession of a controlled substance in February after Beverly Hills police searched her bag and found the Oxycodone tablets. The drug is a strong pain reliever similar to morphine. Geragos has said his client was taking painkillers because of an arm injury.

"I applaud their decision and obviously I'm very happy," Geragos said Wednesday.

During Ryder's preliminary hearing in June, a criminalist testified that the pills were Endocet, a generic brand of the painkiller Percocet, which contains Oxycodone.

Fox determined after the hearing that there was enough evidence for Ryder to be tried on four felony charges, including the drug-possession count.

Prosecutors still plan to try her on charges of grand theft, burglary and vandalism. She could face up to three years in state prison if convicted. "The other three charges remain, and we are ready to go to trial," district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.

Ryder, star of such films as "Girl, Interrupted" and "Little Women," is free on $20,000 bail.

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