Judge orders actress to stand trial in shoplift case as her lawyer calls witnesses liars

Friday, June 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ Winona Ryder was ordered to stand trial on shoplifting charges after a hearing in which a Saks Fifth Avenue security officer said she saw the actress slice off security sensor tags with a scissors.

Superior Court Judge Elden Fox said Thursday there was sufficient cause for Ryder to be tried on charges of second-degree burglary, grand theft, vandalism and possession of a controlled substance.

Five witnesses testified, including a police official who said two pills found in Ryder's possession were a generic form of Percoset, a prescription painkiller. She is charged with possessing it illegally.

Ryder was ordered to return to court June 14 for arraignment.

The 21 items she allegedly shoplifted included merchandise by a who's who of top fashion designers. They included a Gucci dress, a Dolce & Gabbana purse, a Marc Jacobs sweater, Calvin Klein socks and a Natori handbag with a price tag of $3,595.

Witnesses testified that Ryder used her credit card to pay for about $3,700 in other merchandise, including a Dolce & Gabbana leather jacket.

Saks security official Colleen Rainey testified she looked through slats of a door and saw Ryder kneeling on the floor of a fitting room on Dec. 12, taking things out of shopping bags and putting them on the floor around her.

``I saw her cutting sensor tags off of merchandise,'' she testified.

Asked by defense lawyer Mark Geragos if she recognized the movie star that day, Rainey said she told another employee she looked familiar ``and I said I thought it was maybe Winona Ryder.''

But she added, ``Her behavior was such and the way she was dressed _ she appeared to be a bit disheveled. I may have mentioned she looked homeless.''

Saks security official Kenneth Evans testified earlier that he had the same reaction when he first began watching her as a possible shoplifter.

Evans said the actress carried a garment bag, a red Saks shopping bag, another shopping bag and her tote bag.

``And she was wearing a three-quarter-length cashmere coat?'' asked Geragos.

``Yes,'' said the witness.

``And do you get a lot of homeless people wearing three-quarter-length cashmere coats?'' the lawyer asked.

The question drew an objection and was not answered.

Evans said that before leaving the store Ryder twice charged purchases that amounted to about $3,700.

Authorities initially alleged Ryder shoplifted about $4,800 worth of items, but the value was later raised.

Ryder came to court Thursday with her right arm wrapped in an elastic bandage and a sling. Geragos said Ryder's right arm broke at the elbow when she was hit from behind while walking through a crush of reporters at the courthouse Monday, causing a delay in the hearing.

Outside court, Geragos denounced Rainey's testimony.

``That testimony was as close to full-blown perjury as I've seen in a courtroom,'' Geragos said.

``I believe Saks targeted her as a celebrity prior to the Christmas holidays and they have a more than willing partner in the district attorney's office,'' Geragos said.

Deputy District Attorney Julie Jurek rejected Geragos' allegations of perjury.

``I'm 100 percent satisfied that all of the peoples' witnesses told the truth today,'' she said.

Among those in court for Thursday's hearing was Mark Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was abducted from her Petaluma home in 1993 and killed by a convicted kidnapper. Ryder, who is from Petaluma, was active in the search for Polly and later efforts to reform the criminal justice system. She embraced Klaas during a break in the hearing, thanking him for coming.

``I can certainly speak to the character of Winona Ryder,'' Klaas said later. ``I think it's terrible what they're doing to her. She understands the seriousness of crime in our society.''