Ryder spared jail but must have therapy
WINONA Ryder escaped a jail sentence yesterday but was ordered to do charitable work as penance for her shoplifting spree in an expensive Los Angeles department store.
The 31-year-old actress, who was found guilty of grand theft and vandalism last month, said very little as she was also ordered to undergo drugs and psychiatric counselling by Beverly Hills Superior Court.
The two-time Academy Award nominee will have to pay back about 4,000 to the Saks 5th Avenue shop in Beverly Hills, from where she stole a collection of designer items, as well as carry out 480 hours’ community service.
She could have been sentenced to three years in jail.
Ryder’s community service, to be completed by 7 April, will include spending 240 hours at City of Hope, a major medical centre, east of Los Angeles, which specialises in cancer treatment, 120 hours at the Foundation for the Junior Blind, and 120 hours at the Caring for Babies With Aids Foundation.
The actress received a technical term of one day in jail but was given credit for the day she spent in custody. However, the judge, Elden Fox, warned: "If you steal again you will go to jail. Do you understand that?"
Earlier, prosecutors recommended that Ryder be given community service and drug counselling instead.
The judge assured her: "It is not my intention in this matter to make an example of you."
Last month, a jury found Ryder guilty after hearing how a security officer had peered into a dressing room and watched her cutting sensor tags off merchandise. She had then stuffed the items into her bags before walking out of the store.
Ryder had denied the shoplifting allegations.
Saks’ lawyer, Kenneth Metzner, told the judge that Ryder made TV appearances after her arrest that made light of the crime. He said shoplifting was serious, costing Saks more than $7 million last year. That money could have gone to employee benefits and other purposes but "instead it went to criminals", he said. Ryder appeared to smile at that moment.
In mitigation before sentencing, Ryder’s solicitor, Mark Geragos, told the court: "She will carry the scarlet letter of ‘s’ for shoplifter wherever she goes."
He said the charitable work and good deeds she has done in her life outweighed the recent "aberrant" behaviour. "One day of bad behaviour does not trump over a decade of what I consider exemplary work."
Mr Geragos reminded the judge that Ryder had, among other good deeds, posted a reward to find the murderer of Polly Klaas, 12, who was kidnapped from her home in Petaluma, California, in 1993. He acknowledged some "aberrant behaviour" by his client but called her "classy".
The judge, in his sentencing, said: "What is of concern to me is the fact you have refused to accept personal responsibility for what happened."
It was revealed that Ryder was carrying eight different painkilling prescription drugs when she was arrested for shoplifting at the department store on 12 December last year.
Details of the drugs were disclosed to support the prosecution’s recommendation that Ryder should receive drug and psychiatric counselling.
Her solicitor told the court: "It is documented that she had a pain management problem ... She is still addressing that."
During her trial, jurors were shown videotapes of Ryder wandering through the shop’s designer boutiques and taking a large number of items into dressing rooms.
The tapes did not show her cutting off sensor tags with scissors, but a security guard testified she looked through door slats and witnessed that.
Security staff testified that after Ryder was caught, she claimed a director had told her to shoplift to prepare for a new movie role.
Defence attorneys said that after Ryder’s first purchase, the actress believed the shop would keep her account "open" and charge her later. But there was no evidence of an account.
Transcripts made public after the trial disclosed that Ryder was suspected of shoplifting from two other high-profile department stores in the past, but no charges were filed. Prosecutors were not allowed to present those allegations during the trial.
According to a prosecution memo released this week, police were able to confirm Ryder had prescriptions for seven of the drugs.
According to the document, among the drugs in her possession were liquid Demerol, liquid Diazepam, Vicoprofen, Vicoden, Percodan, Valium and morphine sulphate.
Ryder, who began her film career as a teenager in 1986, earned Academy Award nominations for Little Women and The Age of Innocence.
Mr Geragos said Ryder was looking forward to carrying out her community service and working with "three tremendous organisations".
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