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Ryder charged in shoplift and drug case

Feb. 1, 2002 at 8:57 PM

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Four felony charges were filed Friday against actress Winona Ryder, who was arrested last month for allegedly shoplifting clothing from Sak's Fifth Avenue and possession of the potent painkiller Oxycodone.

Ryder was charged with grand theft, vandalism and burglary charges stemming from her alleged attempt to walk out of the venerable Beverly Hills Wilshire Boulevard store on Dec. 12 with a handbag and items of clothing valued at between $4,000 and $5,000. She also was charged with possession of a controlled substance.

The Minnesota-born star of "Girl, Interrupted," "Little Women" and "Autumn in New York" was ordered to appear for arraignment Feb. 8.

Ryder's attorney, Mark Geragos, told Hollywood reporters that he was "hard-pressed to believe the conduct alleged equaled four felonies."

Beverly Hills police had said after Ryder's arrest that she had been seen on a store security camera using scissors to cut security tags off merchandise. The videotape has been turned over to the district attorney's office.

Ryder has insisted that the shoplifting arrest was largely a misunderstanding, and Geragos said Friday that she has prescriptions for whatever drugs she is taking, and that his client had re-injured a broken arm a few days prior to the incident at Sak's.

Oxycodone is not a minor medication. It is a powerful opiate painkiller given to cancer patients and others suffering from severe and chronic pain. It also can be highly addictive and has found popularity on the street among drug abusers. Ryder had a hypodermic needle.

Asa Hutchinson, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, testified before Congress on Dec. 11, the day before Ryder's arrest, that the number of prescriptions written for OxyContin, the timed-release version of Oxycodone, had soared since 1995.

"Contrary to the product's intended dosage and administration, many abusers are crushing OxyContin tablets and negating the controlled release effect of the drug," Hutchinson testified. "Simply crushing the tablet enables the abuser to swallow, snort, or inject the drug for a powerful heroin-like high."

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