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Guards Stopped Ryder at Other Stores

November 9, 2002

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ Winona Ryder was stopped three times by security at stores in New York and Beverly Hills before her arrest at Saks Fifth Avenue in a case that resulted in her theft conviction, according to secret court transcripts released Friday.

The actress was never charged in the alleged incidents at Barneys in New York and Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, according to the documents.

The transcripts showed that Deputy District Attorney Ann Rundle argued during a closed hearing Oct. 24 that jurors should hear about Ryder’s alleged ``prior bad acts″ in judging her behavior at Saks.

She said the three incidents, two of them recorded on security videotapes, showed Ryder behaving similarly to how she was seen committing her crimes at Saks.

``In one of our prior instances, she was seen by security selecting a hat, wandering around the store with a hat and then walking out the door with the hat on her head without paying for it,″ Rundle said, ``which is an almost identical act to what she is being charged with in this case.″

Rundle told the judge: ``We have videotapes of two prior instances wherein she is seen doing the identical conduct that they will see on the video in our case ... selecting items, concealing those items underneath heavy garment bags or underneath her own clothing, in and out of dressing rooms and ultimately walking out of the store without paying for the item.″

She said the instances occurred at Barneys of New York on May 14, 2000, and on Oct. 10, 2001, and Nov. 29 at the Neiman Marcus store in Beverly Hills.

Ryder was detained by security guards at the Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue on Dec. 12, 2001, after she left the store with more than $5,500 in merchandise she had not paid for. She was convicted this week of felony grand theft and vandalism.

According to the transcripts, Rundle argued that each prior act was close in time to the date of her arrest and ``each of these acts is relevant to refute the defense that this was merely a mistake.″

Rundle said she wanted to use the prior acts to head off a defense argument that Ryder thought she had paid for the items.

``Given that defense, the people are entitled ... to refute that defense by introducing prior bad acts which show a lack of mistake,″ she said. ``They also show a very common plan or scheme in how Ms. Ryder perpetrates her thefts.″

Rundle noted that in the Saks case Ryder would be seen on videotape selecting a hat, wearing it around the store, in and out of dressing rooms, and then placing the hat in her shopping bag as she walks out the door.

Ryder’s attorney, Mark Geragos, argued against admission of the incidents.

``She’s never been detained. She’s never been arrested. I’ve watched the videotape. There’s nothing on the videotape,″ Geragos said, claiming the prosecution was just trying to ``throw in more garbage″ because it had a weak case.

Superior Court Judge Elden Fox ruled that the evidence could not be admitted at the trial because it would be ``far more prejudicial than probative.″

``Allowing it in ... the court believes would impair the defendant’s ability to have a fair trial,″ Fox said.

How those stores and Ryder resolved the incidents was not stated in the transcripts.

The judge released the transcripts of secret hearings in response to an appeals court decision in a case brought by The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Reached late Friday, Geragos said he could not comment because he had not yet been informed that the documents were no longer under seal.

Ryder will be sentenced on Dec. 6. Prosecutors have said they don’t intend to seek jail time.

___

Associated Press Writer Eugene Tong contributed to this report.

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