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Winona Ryder Charged in $4,760 Shoplifting

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actress Winona Ryder was charged Friday with four felony counts for allegedly shoplifting about $4,760 in merchandise from a Beverly Hills department store and possessing a controlled substance in December, prosecutors said.

Ryder, 30, faces one count each of second-degree commercial burglary, grand theft of personal property, vandalism with more than $400 damage and possession of Oxycodone, a controlled substance, according to court papers filed Friday by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

She is free on $20,000 bail, but prosecutors have recommended an increase to $30,000. If she is convicted, she could face a sentence of three years and eight months in state prison.

Ryder’s defense attorney, Mark Geragos, said that he was not surprised charges were filed, but that he believed their severity was “out of whack.”

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Geragos said his client had prescriptions for the drugs she was carrying and had receipts for the merchandise. She maintains her innocence, he said.

“The idea that they charged her with four felonies is mind-boggling,” he said. “I believe we’re going to prevail.”

Ryder’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, issued a statement on her behalf:

“We are shocked at what appear to be grossly exaggerated charges,” the statement said. “We look forward to the opportunity to explain and resolve these allegations.”

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District attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said the reason for the charges was simple: “We had the evidence.”

Ryder was arrested Dec. 13 after video cameras at a Saks Fifth Avenue store allegedly recorded her taking the items, removing their antitheft devices and stuffing them into a large bag. When store security officers confronted her outside the store, they searched her bag and found the merchandise, as well as pain medication, authorities said.

Ryder originally was set to be arraigned in early January, but prosecutors said they needed more time to review the evidence. Beverly Hills Superior Court Judge Elden Fox extended her bail bond and told her to return Feb. 8 for arraignment.

Prosecutors asked Beverly Hills detectives for more help investigating the case. Detectives presented additional evidence this week to prosecutors, who examined it and late Thursday made their decision to file charges.

Geragos said he spoke with the actress for several hours Thursday night. “She’s had better days. But she is as tough as they come,” he said.

Geragos met with prosecutors last month and showed them various documents that he described as exonerating evidence.

But Gibbons said Friday, “Whatever he presented was insufficient to cause us to change our mind on the charges.”

Geragos said he does not believe Oxycodone was what Ryder had in her purse the day of her arrest.

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Oxycodone, a strong narcotic pain reliever similar to morphine, is the active ingredient in OxyContin. OxyContin produces a heroin-level high and has been linked to abuse and deaths nationwide, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Geragos said Ryder was taking pain medication because she broke her arm last spring while shooting a movie and re-injured it a few days before she went shopping in December.

Ryder has appeared in films including “Girl, Interrupted” and “Reality Bites.” She is a two-time Academy Award nominee, for best actress in “Little Women” and for best supporting actress in “The Age of Innocence.”

After her arrest, T-shirts with the slogan “Free Winona” hit novelty stores.


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