Winona Ryder's lawyer says actress' shoplifting arrest is result of a 'misunderstanding'

Thursday, December 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ Winona Ryder's arrest for allegedly shoplifting at a Saks Fifth Avenue boutique is the result of a ``misunderstanding,'' the actress' lawyer said.

Store security guards detained the Oscar-nominated star of ``Little Women'' and ``The Age of Innocence'' Wednesday night after discovering her trying to steal ``numerous items of clothing,'' Beverly Hills police Lt. Gary Gilmond said.

Police who arrested Ryder also found prescription drugs in her possession, Gilmond said. She was booked on felony charges of grand theft and possessing pharmaceutical drugs without a prescription.

The 30-year-old actress was released after posting $20,000 bail. She was ordered to appear in Beverly Hills Superior Court on Jan. 11.

``It's a misunderstanding on the part of the store,'' said attorney Mark Geragos, who added that Ryder was merely carrying items between store departments, not trying to steal them. He said she has a valid prescription for the painkillers found in her possession and receipts for the items she allegedly stole.

Gilmond said Ryder may have a prescription for the drugs but was booked because she couldn't immediately produce it. He said store security officers saw her remove security tags from the items, worth $4,760, then place them in her bag and leave the store.

Ryder is best known for playing ponderous, melancholy characters in movies including ``Beetlejuice,'' ``Heathers,'' ``Reality Bites'' and ``Girl, Interrupted.''

Last year she co-starred with Richard Gere in the much-derided romantic drama ``Autumn in New York.''

A star since her teens, Ryder grew up in hippie surroundings, living at times in San Francisco and on a California commune. Her family's friends included beat poet Allen Ginsberg and her godfather was psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary.

Ryder, who has dated actors Matt Damon and Johnny Depp, has maintained a grueling film schedule she has blamed for causing occasional mental breakdowns.

She has been hospitalized several times for exhaustion and has told reporters she has sometimes tried to drown her anxiety attacks and depression in alcohol. She lost a pivotal role in 1990's ``The Godfather: Part III'' days before filming began because of anxiety and exhaustion.

But Ryder also has been known for her social activism. In 1993, she offered a $200,000 reward to help find Polly Klaas, who was kidnapped at age 12 from Ryder's hometown of Petaluma, Calif., and later found dead.