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Witness: Ryder said she shoplifted for role

From Stan Wilson

Winona Ryder arrives Monday for the opening arguments in her trial at the Beverly Hills Courthouse.
Winona Ryder arrives Monday for the opening arguments in her trial at the Beverly Hills Courthouse.

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After numerous delays, actress Winona Ryder appeared in a Beverly Hills, California, courtroom to face shoplifting charges. CNN's Eric Horng reports (October 29)
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Amended information: People v. Ryder  (FindLaw, PDF)external link

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- When she was detained after allegedly stealing merchandise from a Beverly Hills department store, actress Winona Ryder told security guards that a film director had instructed her to shoplift to prepare for a movie role, a witness testified Monday.

Kenneth Evans, the head of security at Saks Fifth Avenue, said Ryder apologized after being apprehended by security guards and said, "My director instructed me to shoplift for a role I was preparing for. I'm sorry for what I did."

Evans said Ryder did not say what role she was preparing for, nor did she name the director.

Evans, the first witness called by the prosecution in Ryder's felony theft trial, said he became suspicious of Ryder while surveying a closed-circuit camera because she was carrying an "awful lot of merchandise"

After observing her movements on the camera, he instructed another security officer to follow Ryder into a fitting room where she brought hand bags, hats, purses, socks, dresses and hair accessories. He said the guard allegedly observed Ryder cutting sensor tags and price tags and stuffing several items into a shopping bag.

Evans said he monitored Ryder's movements for 40 minutes on a surveillance camera until she was stopped in a store parking lot and taken to a security room for questioning. He said he did not initially recognize Ryder on the surveillance tape but was informed of her identity by a security guard.

In her opening statements, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Ann Rundle accused the actress of walking into an upscale Beverly Hills department store last December "with the intent to steal" and walking out with $5,560 worth of merchandise stuffed into her bag.

"This is a simple case of theft. Nothing more, nothing less," Rundle said.

But Ryder's attorney, Mark Geragos, countered by saying the case was about "security guards at Saks Fifth Avenue who were out of control" and targeted the actress because they hoped she would get them tickets to a movie premiere.

Geragos termed Ryder's treatment by the guards "inexplicably horrible" and said one of them even lifted her top to check for merchandise.

Ryder, 30, star of such films as "Girl, Interrupted" and "Little Women," is on trial on charges of felony grand theft, burglary and vandalism. She could face a maximum of three years in prison on each count if convicted.

Wearing a conservative black short-sleeved dress, Ryder listened intently and took notes during opening arguments before the six-man, six-woman jury that will decide her fate. Cameras are not allowed in the courtroom.

Rundle said Ryder cut anti-theft sensor tags off the merchandise, stuffed it into her bag and walked out of the store. She told jurors that a key piece of evidence will be a surveillance videotape, which, while "boring," will prove Ryder's guilt.

But Geragos countered that "the reason the video is boring is because there's no smoking gun." He said it doesn't show Ryder cutting off the tags, nor does it show her putting the merchandise in her bag or stashing the security tags in the pocket of a coat where they were found.

According to the prosecution, the final total of the merchandise allegedly stolen by Ryder -- who, as one of Hollywood's top actresses, commands millions per movie -- was $5,560.40.

The trial resumes Tuesday at 10 a.m. (1 p.m. ET).

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