| Winona Ryder at the Los Angeles county court house on Monday. (AP/PTI)
Actress Winona Ryder claimed she was preparing for an acting role when she was first detained last December on suspicion of shoplifting at the posh Saks Fifth Avenue store, a Saks security manager testified on Monday.
But her “performance” was captured on a 90-minute store videotape of her ill-fated shopping spree, part of which was shown to the jury on the first day of Ryder’s trial on charges of burglary, grand theft and vandalism.
Saks security manager Kenneth Evans testified that Ryder was “polite and apologetic” when she was stopped leaving the Beverly Hills store and found with some 20 items of designer clothes, handbags and accessories concealed about her person and in her shopping bags.
When Evans told Ryder that the police were being informed of the incident, “she immediately stood up and took hold of my hand and apologised for what had happened,” Evans said.
Ryder then told him “my director directed me to shoplift in preparation for a role I am preparing,” he added. It was not clear what role or which director Ryder was referring to.
In opening statements, prosecutor Ann Rundle told the jury that the Oscar-nominated actress went to Saks with intent to steal, even bringing scissors to clip security tags from purloined items and wads of tissue to conceal them.
A two-for-one programme
Although she did pay for three items, she had her “own two-for-one bonus programme — for every item she purchased she would help herself to another,” Rundle said.
Ryder, who turned 31 on Tuesday, followed the proceedings looking serious and demure in a black dress.
Her lawyer, Mark Geragos, said Ryder was innocent of shoplifting items valued at more than $5,500 and had been singled out by security staff “who got out of control” because of her celebrity status.
Geragos said the famous video surveillance tape shows her doing nothing “except — surprise — shopping.”
He said evidence would show that early on in her shopping trip, Ryder had told a store assistant to keep her account open, explaining she planned to pay for the items later.
The Saks surveillance tape, only a small section of which has been shown on television, showed the petite waif-like actress roaming the store, laden down with numerous shopping bags and with merchandise piled high in her arms.
At one point, she dropped her belongings and is clearly seen on the tape kneeling on the floor and stuffing socks, hair accessories and a soft hat inside another hat which she then placed in her arms while she continued to browse.
Saks manager Evans said he became suspicious because of the amount of non-Saks bags she was carrying in a store where most shoppers leave merchandise bought elsewhere in the store’s own parking lot.
Evans said a female security agent watched Ryder through the specially designed slats of a dressing room door cutting the sensor tags off merchandise and putting the items in her shopping bags.
He later recovered four of the tags still bearing pieces of fabric matching holes in the goods allegedly stolen by Ryder.
Evans said he had not realised for some time that the woman he was watching on store cameras was the star of Girl, Interrupted and Age of Innocence.
“I couldn't care less who she was,” he told the jury.
Geragos claimed Ryder was mistreated by store security personnel after she was taken back inside for questioning.
“They threatened her, did all kinds of things ... One of the guys lifts up her ... shirt — she’s not wearing a bra — and she screamed at them to stop,” Geragos said.
“My client did not believe this was happening to her.”
The trial is expected to last for about a week. Ryder could face three years in prison if convicted.