• 6Nov
  • Winona Ryder convicted of theft, likely to get probation
  • 11/6/2003
  • BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It was no Hollywood ending for actress Winona Ryder, who was convicted Wednesday of grand theft and vandalism for stealing $5,560 of clothes and accessories from a Beverly Hills department store. The jury acquitted her of burglary.

    Ryder showed little reaction as the verdict was read, but turned and whispered with her attorney, Mark Geragos.

    She faces up to three years in prison for the Dec. 12, 2001, shoplifting spree, but is likely to receive probation when she is sentenced Dec. 6.

    Speaking after the verdict, Deputy District Attorney Ann Rundle said she was not seeking a prison sentence for the Academy Award-nominated actress.

    "This case was never about jail time. We were simply asking for Ms. Ryder to be responsible for her conduct," Rundle said, noting that she would recommend community service, probation and restitution to Saks.

    Having found the 31-year-old Ryder not to be a flight risk, Superior Court Judge Elden Fox excused her until the sentencing and kept intact the $20,000 bond that she posted the day of her arrest.

    Ryder's attorney, Geragos, did not comment after the verdict, but during the trial he blamed the charges on a vast conspiracy orchestrated by Saks senior management and accused store security guards of concocting details about the incident.

    Jurors, including former Sony Pictures head Peter Guber, disagreed. They deliberated about six hours hours before rendering their verdict.

    Rundle told reporters that the panel had expressed a desire to "move on with their lives." Given the opportunity to keep their notes from the trial, however, each of the six men and six women did.

    Sandi Gibbons, a spokesperson for the L.A. County district attorney's office and a witness in the trial, said outside the courthouse that the split verdict didn't surprise her. Speaking of the burglary and theft charges, she said, "Generally if you find on one, you don't find on the other," and added that to convict Ryder of burglary, jurors would have had to find that she went to Saks intending to steal.

    When asked about the burglary acquittal, Rundle noted that Ryder was never seen entering the store, and was known to have made a purchase shortly afterward.

    Following the verdict, a throng of more than 100 media personnel gathered on the steps of the courthouse, while a news chopper hovered overhead.

    The week-long trial featured testimony from a number of security guards who detained Ryder after watching her on closed-circuit television for about 90 minutes while her bags grew steadily larger. One of the guards, Colleen Rainey, told the court she peered through the slats of a dressing room door to see Ryder on her knees removing sensor tags with a pair of orange-handled scissors.

    Ryder's star witness, Michael Shoar, testified that Rainey's boss, Kenneth Evans, told him he would "nail that rich Beverly Hills bitch at any cost." But Shoar admitted on cross-examination that he had an axe to grind with Saks and is currently engaged in a bitter legal skirmish with the company.

    Other evidence the jury had to examine were the items that Ryder allegedly shoplifted. The sweaters, handbags, hats and other items were piled into boxes and delivered to the jury room by court bailiffs, along with three security tags that still bore pieces of fabric matching holes on some of the merchandise.

    They were also given the surveillance videos. Although the tapes never showed Ryder removing security tags, prosecutor Rundle argued that they illustrated the actress's pattern of shoplifting: removing security tags in the privacy of the dressing room, concealing the items, and then ditching the tags throughout the store.

    Ryder, famous for her roles in such movies as "Edward Scissorhands" and more recently "Mr. Deeds," allegedly admitted to security guards that she had been shoplifting but claimed it was to prepare for an upcoming role in a movie.

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