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Store Videotape Is Shown, Security Manager Grilled in Ryder Trial

October 30, 2002|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

Actress Winona Ryder spent her 31st birthday in a Beverly Hills courtroom Tuesday watching herself on a Saks Fifth Avenue surveillance tape that showed her being confronted by three security guards moments after she left the store in December with her arms full of shopping bags.

Saks security manager Kenneth Evans, who provided narration of the tape to jurors, testified that Ryder had no permission to take some $5,560 worth of merchandise found in her possession. He also showed jurors four sensor tags that he said matched items Ryder took from the department store.

Later, during cross-examination, Evans admitted that he made several inaccurate statements during Ryder's preliminary hearing and during his direct examination Monday. Evans also acknowledged that he did not mark the sensor tags in a log when he placed them in a Saks evidence locker, saying he did not believe they were crucial to the case against Ryder.

"I didn't think [the tags were] necessary to prove that Winona Ryder had shoplifted on Dec. 12," he told jurors during the second day of testimony in Ryder's felony trial.

The Oscar-nominated film star is accused of stealing $5,560 in merchandise and is charged with grand theft, burglary and vandalism. She paid for roughly $3,700 in merchandise the same day as her arrest. Her trial is expected to last less than two weeks.

Evans identified several pieces of evidence, including a pair of scissors he said Ryder used to cut sensor tags off merchandise in a store dressing room, along with two designer blouses with holes in them. He also said Ryder cut herself with those scissors, and pointed out a section on the videotape when a sales associate helps the actress place a bandage on her finger.

The high-end department store has a program, called "Fifth Avenue Club," for regular shoppers to borrow clothing without paying, as long as they sign the items in a "borrow book," Evans said. But Evans stressed that Ryder did not do that during her shopping spree.

Ryder's attorney, Mark Geragos, repeatedly attacked Evans' credibility Tuesday, poking holes in his testimony and accusing him of lying on the stand.

At one point, Superior Court Judge Elden S. Fox said, "Mr. Geragos, you're trying my patience."

The attorney responded, "Judge, the witness is trying my patience."

Evans acknowledged that he was inaccurate when he testified in June that he found the sensor tags on Dec. 13, the day after Ryder's arrest. He told jurors Tuesday that he located them in a pocket of a jacket in the store between Dec. 14 and Dec. 18 and admitted never noting the discovery in a written report.

Evans also admitted that he took two other sensor tags found by one of his security guards in the dressing room that Ryder used and put them back into circulation.

Geragos also suggested to the jury that Ryder gave her credit card to a sales associate and told him to leave her account open.

Meanwhile, a state appellate court ruled Tuesday that Fox did not appear to follow correct procedures when he held closed court hearings and sealed motions related to Ryder's case. The justices strongly urged Fox to reevaluate his actions and gave him until 5 p.m. Thursday to hold a hearing on the matter.

Fox did not follow rules set by a 1999 California Supreme Court case that requires judges to find that there is a compelling interest that justifies secrecy and to consider less restrictive alternatives, the appellate court said.

The ruling was in response to a writ filed by The Times, the Associated Press and the Daily Journal on Monday.

"It's very prompt," said Al Wickers, attorney for The Times. "We're very happy that the court acted so quickly."

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