Winona Ryder ordered to stand trial

June 6, 2002 at 9:31 PM
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., June 6 (UPI) -- Oscar-nominated actress Winona Ryder was ordered Thursday to stand trial on shoplifting and drug possession charges in connection with her December 2001 arrest at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.

Beverly Hills Superior Court Judge Elden Fox set a date of June 14 for a formal arraignment for Ryder.

"There is sufficient cause to believe that Ms. Winona Ryder is guilty and that she be ordered held to answer," said the judge.

Prosecutors presented evidence they said shows Ryder stole more than $6,000 worth of merchandise. The drug charge involves alleged possession of the painkiller oxycodone without a prescription.

A store security officer testified at a preliminary hearing for Ryder that she saw the star of "Girl, Interrupted" clipping security tags from merchandise she is accused of stealing. Colleen Rainey testified that she was looking through slats in a dressing room door and saw Ryder use scissors to cut tags from two purses and stuff the purses into her shopping bag.

Rainey also said she saw Ryder try to remove anti-theft tags from two other purses -- and that the actress cut her finger and left a blood spot in the bottom of one of the bags.

Kenneth Evans, the head of security at the store, testified that when he first saw Ryder on a store surveillance camera he mistook her for a bag lady -- because she carrying several bags and had on a long cashmere coat. He also told the court that six anti-theft tags that had evidently been cut off of merchandise were found hidden in the store the day after Ryder was arrested -- including three on which the cut marks matched items Ryder was holding when she was arrested.

There has been some dispute about exactly what the surveillance tape shows.

Ryder is seen browsing in the store, and when prosecutors filed charges against her they quoted police as saying that the actress could be seen on tape cutting security tags from merchandise. Ryder's lawyer, Mark Geragos, said the tape shows no such thing.

"Contrary to the public perception, this tape exonerates her," Geragos told The Orlando Sentinel in March. "I'd say this is a prosecution, interrupted."

Speaking with reporters outside the courthouse after the hearing, Geragos said the prosecution witnesses "lied through their teeth" and characterized their testimony as "close to full-blown perjury."

He said Ryder didn't steal the merchandise she is accused of stealing, and he believes the store "targeted" her.

"I've got evidence that Saks targeted her," he said.

The judge also ordered journalists Thursday not to come within 10 feet of Ryder, after she was injured outside the courthouse Tuesday -- the first day of her preliminary hearing. Geragos said she fractured her right elbow in a collision, possibly with a camera lens.

The 30-year-old actress is free on $20,000 bail after pleading not guilty to theft, burglary, vandalism and possession of a controlled substance -- the painkiller Oxycodone.

Ryder -- who opens with Adam Sandler June 28 in "Mr. Deeds" -- became a star in the 1980s with appearances in "Beetlejuice," "Heathers" and "Great Balls of Fire!" She was nominated twice for the Oscar -- for best actress in "Little Women" (1994), and best supporting actress in "The Age of Innocence" (1993).

Mark Klaas -- whose 12-year-old daughter Polly was abducted from her Northern California home in 1993 and killed by a convicted kidnapper who is now on death row -- attended Thursday's hearing. He told reporters afterward he was there to show his support for Ryder.

"I think it's terrible what they're doing to her," said Klaas. "I've seen her character assassinated from the 12th of December on."

Ryder offered a $200,000 reward to help in the search for Polly Klaas. Mark Klaas called Ryder a close friend and a "woman of great character."

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