Winona Ryder pleads innocent to theft, drug charges

The Associated Press
Saturday June 15, 2002

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Winona Ryder pleaded innocent Friday to shoplifting and drug charges, and her lawyer said he’d try to disqualify the District Attorney’s office from trying the case. 

The motion for disqualification by Ryder’s attorney, Mark Geragos, was placed under seal, but he’s said previously he believes prosecutors aren’t treating his client fairly. 

Ryder said little during her arraignment. Her arm was in a sling from an injury she reportedly suffered when a camera bumped her during a break in a previous hearing. 

Superior Court Judge Elden Fox asked the 30-year-old whether she was entering a plea of not guilty, and she responded in a soft voice, “Yes, your honor.” She and her lawyer left the courthouse without commenting outside. 

Ryder was ordered last week to stand trial on felony charges alleging she shoplifted some $6,000 worth of merchandise from Saks Fifth Avenue and illegally possessed a drug without a prescription. 

The actress, who co-stars in the upcoming Adam Sandler comedy “Mr. Deeds,” is charged with second-degree burglary, grand theft, vandalism and possession of a controlled substance. 

Ryder faces a maximum of three years and eight months in state prison if convicted on all charges. She remains free on $20,000 bail. 

A store security official testified during a preliminary hearing last week that she saw the actress cutting security sensor tags off the items, and a criminalist testified that two pills found in Ryder’s possession were a generic form of Percoset, a prescription painkiller. 

Fox said then that there was sufficient cause for her to be tried. 

On Friday, the judge set a pretrial hearing for July 15, but said Ryder didn’t have to attend. He also ordered that any motions concerning possible prior acts by Ryder be filed under seal. A tentative trial date was set for Aug. 13. 

Prosecutors have said they may introduce evidence of prior misdeeds by Ryder. 

A notice filed with the District Attorney’s office last month indicates the prosecution plans to show that the “Girl, Interrupted” star’s alleged shoplifting is part of a pattern of behavior. 

Court records show no previous convictions against Ryder. 

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s office, has declined to provide details of the evidence, saying prosecutors would save that material for court.