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Ryder Gave 2 Stories to Store Guards, Court Told

October 31, 2002|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

Moments after Winona Ryder was apprehended with more than $5,500 in unpaid merchandise outside Saks Fifth Avenue, she calmly asked security guards, "Didn't my assistant pay for it?" according to testimony Wednesday in the actress' ongoing shoplifting trial.

Saks security investigator Colleen Rainey told jurors in a Beverly Hills courtroom that Ryder gave guards two different explanations about why she left the posh department store with the designer clothes and accessories. The second reason, Rainey said, was a claim by Ryder that she was preparing for roles in two future films: "White Jazz" and "Shopgirl."

Ryder's publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said outside court later that Ryder did talk about possible future projects while she was in the security room. But any claim that the actress said she was shoplifting for those films was "utterly ridiculous," the publicist said.

Rainey's boss, security manager Kenneth Evans, also testified earlier this week that Ryder said she took the clothes as research for a film role. Evans finished his testimony Wednesday after spending much of three days on the stand narrating surveillance videotapes showing Ryder's December shopping spree. The tape never showed an assistant with Ryder.

Rainey, due to be cross-examined by defense attorney Mark Geragos today, said Ryder was calm and relaxed as she was questioned by security guards. Rainey, who has since left Saks, identified about 20 items that she said Ryder never paid for, including a $760 Marc Jacobs thermal top, a $540 Natori handbag, a $225 Eric Javits hat and an $80 pair of Donna Karan socks.

During her testimony, Rainey told jurors that while Ryder was in a dressing room, she grabbed scissors from her purse and cut sensor tags off two expensive handbags. The guard said she witnessed Ryder through slats in the dressing room door.

Ryder tried to cut tags off two other purses, Rainey said, but was stymied by the plastic security devices. Before leaving the dressing room, the actress concealed socks and hair bands in tissue paper and stuffed all of the items in a shopping bag, the guard testified.

During his cross-examination earlier in the day, security manager Evans told jurors that he did not have personal feelings, one way or the other, about the Oscar-nominated actress. Defense attorney Geragos then asked Evans about a lunch he had with a former co-worker and asked Evans if he had said, "I'm gonna nail her" and "I'm gonna get her one way or another."

Evans acknowledged having the lunch but denied making such statements. Geragos said later that he would probably call the co-worker to the stand in Ryder's defense.

During one section of the video presented Wednesday, Evans pointed out Ryder reaching into her own pocket and putting something in a pocket of a coat on a rack in the Gucci area. Evans said that coat was not there later when he went to look for sensor tags.

Evans also reiterated that he had found four tags, which matched merchandise Ryder was found with, in a jacket pocket in the Chanel boutique.

Geragos accused Evans of making up that testimony, pointing out that it was not mentioned in any report.

Ryder is charged with grand theft, burglary and vandalism and could be sentenced to three years in state prison if convicted. Geragos, however, insists that Ryder was set up and didn't shoplift anything. She bought about $3,700 in merchandise from the posh department store on Dec. 12, the day of the arrest.

Ryder, who turned 31 on Tuesday, took notes as she listened to the testimony. Appearing frustrated at points, Ryder shook her head and took deep breaths. Her parents, along with her publicist and several friends, filled a portion of the Beverly Hills courtroom.

A Saks sales associate, Shirley Warren, testified Wednesday that Ryder appeared to cut her finger while she was in the second-floor dressing room and that she helped the actress put on a bandage. "She just appeared to be a little nervous," Warren told jurors.

Another sales associate, Sophie Seyranian, testified that Ryder asked to be placed in a specific dressing room on the third floor. "She preferred to have some privacy," said Seyranian, who helped Ryder purchase a brown jacket and two blouses.

Both sales associates said Ryder did not leave a credit card imprint or tell them to leave her account open. Seyranian said Ryder did not give her any other items to purchase.

Superior Court Judge Elden S. Fox also announced that he would hold a hearing this afternoon in response to an appellate court ruling questioning his decision to seal several pretrial motions and hold closed hearings.

The film projects referred to Wednesday by former security guard Rainey are based on a James Ellroy novel and a Steve Martin novella. Neither film has yet been produced, although "Shopgirl," about a salesgirl at Neiman-Marcus, is due to be filmed early next year with a cast that does not include Ryder.*

Times staff writer Anita M. Busch contributed to this report.

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