A Tale of Two Winonas - E! Online

A Tale of Two Winonas

Opening arguments and prosecution witness testimony begins in Winona Ryder shoplifting case

By Joal Ryan Oct 29, 2002 1:45 AMTags

It is a "simple case of theft." Or it is a "case about a woman who has been wronged and wronged terribly."

Thus began the shoplifting trial of the century, as opening arguments and prosecution witness testimony were heard in a Beverly Hills courtroom Monday in the case of the regular people versus two-time Oscar nominee Winona Ryder.

Ryder is accused of trying to make off with more than $5,500 worth of designer doodads from the 90210 Saks Fifth Avenue last December 12. On Monday, she sat before a true, 12-person jury of her peers, including producer and former Sony honcho Peter Guber, a current Sony legal secretary and a TV development dude.

The actress, who turns 31 on Tuesday, wore a demure black dress, and appeared "pale and serious" during the proceedings, according to Reuters, as opposed to all those times when the Gen X angst queen appears, you know, tanned and giddy.

Certainly, Ryder had little opportunity to crack a smile during the prosecution's opening remarks.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Ann Rundle took Ryder to task for creating "her own two-for-one bonus program" during her ill-fated Saks outing.

"For every item she purchased she would help herself to another," Rundle told jurors.

Per the prosecution, Ryder paid for four items, and helped herself to another 20 or so (which actually works out to a five-for-one bonus program, if you do the math).

Rundle promised that store security video footage would be screened and scrutinized frame-by-frame for the court, and she said it would show the Mr. Deeds star doing bad deeds.

Additionally, Rundle said Ryder walked into Saks armed with credit cards and dollar bills--and the intent to not use them to their fullest buying power.

"All this case amounts to is a simple case of theft, nothing more, nothing less," Rundle said.

Ryder's lead attorney begged to differ.

"What was going on here was not really a bust or simple theft," Mark Geragos said in his opening argument. "There were reasons they were doing this and focusing on Miss Ryder."

Previously, Geragos has charged that Saks employees nabbed Ryder in order to make a high-profile shoplifting bust for the Christmas shopping season.

On Monday, Geragos didn't speak to motive as much as he spoke of his client's treatment at the hands--literally--of the Saks-ies.

Upon detaining her, security guards threatened Ryder, and "did all kinds of things," the defense attorney said, including lifting up the velour shirt she was wearing. The Age of Innocence actress responded to the search with a scream, on account of she was not wearing a bra, Geragos shared with the court.

Whereas the prosecution argued Ryder's unpaid purchases were the result of a premeditated shoplifting spree, Geragos said the actress had every intention of making good on her selections--eventually.

Ryder has a credit card on file with Saks, Geragos said. And on the day of her arrest, he said, his client told a store clerk to keep her account open. (It is not an uncommon practice at stores that cater to the Hollywood elite for stars to be billed after, not before, they walk out the door.)

The defense attorney also took issue with the Saks surveillance tape. Geragos said it shows Ryder doing nothing "except--surprise!--shopping."

The first witness called to the stand, by prosecutors, was a Saks security manager. Kenneth Evans testified he tagged the actress for surveillance because she entered toting a bunch of bags (well, four). He said he did not recognize her as Winona Ryder, movie star.

In addition to siccing the security cameras on her, Evans said he assigned a security guard to spy on Ryder through her dressing room door. That guard reportedly told Evans of watching the actress cut sensor tags off items.

Evans said his guards waited until Ryder was outside of the store to detain her. "I recall her saying, 'I'm sorry,'" Evans said.

Evans also testified that Ryder initially claimed she was practicing for an acting gig, telling the security man, "my director directed me to shoplift in preparation for a role I am preparing."

He's due back on the stand when the festivities reconvene Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Ryder stands accused of felony grand theft, commercial burglary and vandalism, charges that could bring a maximum three-year prison term, if she's convicted of all three. She remains free on $20,000 bail, and has pleaded innocent to the charges.

Her trial, which got off to a deliberate start last Thursday, is expected to last five to seven days.