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Prosecutor won't seek jail for Ryder

Ryder listens to the verdicts Wednesday.
Ryder listens to the verdicts Wednesday.

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CNN's Paul Clinton says the shoplifting trial of actress Winona Ryder was full of surreal moments and dramatic flair (November 6)
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A Los Angeles jury found actress Winona Ryder guilty of grand theft and vandalism but not guilty of commercial burglary (November 6)
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• Court Case coverage external link
• Amended information: People v. Ryder  (FindLaw, PDF)external link
• All about Winona external link

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Shortly after Oscar-nominated actress Winona Ryder was found guilty of shoplifting charges Wednesday, Los Angeles prosecutors said they would not press for a sentence that would include time in jail.

"We will not be asking for jail time," Los Angeles County prosecutor Ann Rundle told reporters outside the courthouse. "We have never asked for jail time in this case. We simply ask Miss Ryder to accept responsibility."

Ryder was found guilty of stealing more than $5,500 worth of merchandise from a Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue store last December.

The six-man, six-woman jury found Ryder guilty of grand theft and vandalism but not guilty of commercial burglary. The decision, announced at 2:45 p.m. ET, came after 5 1/2 hours of deliberations over two days.

The 31-year-old star of "Girl, Interrupted" faces a sentence that could range from probation to three years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for December 6.

It is unlikely, however, that the actress will face a sentence that would include time in jail. Observers said the judge may be lenient because of Ryder's spotless record.

Additionally, prosecutor Rundle said her office would only seek a sentence that includes probation, community service and restitution to Saks Fifth Avenue.

Ryder was arrested last December 12 as she left the upscale department store in Beverly Hills. Jurors had to decide whether the actress was a thrill-seeking thief as prosecutors suggested or the victim of overzealous department store security guards as the defense argued.

The case had received extensive media attention, partly because most similar cases do not go to trial. Defense attorneys claimed in the trial that prosecutors targeted Ryder because of her celebrity status.

The jury included Peter Guber, the former head of Sony Entertainment. Though Guber said he had never met Ryder, questions were raised about his ability to be impartial because Sony produced three of Ryder's pictures during Guber's tenure.

The judge spoke with Guber and determined he could remain on the jury.

In closing arguments earlier this week, prosecutor Rundle told the jury that the state had successfully proven that Ryder had "intent to steal" because "she brought her own burglary tools," including scissors to remove garment tags, a garment bag, and a plastic bag filled with nothing but tissue paper for wrapping up items.

"She came, she stole, she left," Rundle told jurors.

Defense Attorney Mark Geragos countered that Ryder's accusers were never consistent and blamed the allegations on a conspiracy by Saks staff to protect the store from liability.

"You have seen people change their testimony repeatedly," Geragos said. "There was a collapse of objective evidence and a collapse of proof."

During the trial, prosecution witness Colleen Rainey, the former investigator for Saks' theft-and-loss department, testified she saw Ryder take orange-handled scissors out of her purse and use them to cut out large sensor tags, leaving large holes in designer garments.

Geragos openly wondered to the jury whether someone planted the scissors on Ryder. He also showed video of a store clerk entering a dressing room area with what appeared to be scissors, speculating the shears could have been left there for Rainey to find.

In another development, The Associated Press reported that the California 2nd District Court of Appeal chastised Superior Court Judge Elden Fox for refusing to release the questionnaires that jurors filled out at the start of the trial.

The questionnaires focused on how much the jurors knew about the case and what opinions they had formed about the actress before they were called for jury duty.

The appeals court gave the judge time to correct the error. He was ordered to either release the information by November 7 or file a petition of opposition with the appeals court by November 11.

The court ruling came in response to an appeal filed by The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Ryder has appeared in more than two dozen other movies, including "Mr. Deeds," "Little Women," "Reality Bites" and "Edward Scissorhands."

The actress remains free on bail.

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