Actress Winona Ryder found guilty of shoplifting
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.(Reuters) - A glum Winona Ryder was convicted Wednesday of shoplifting from Saks Fifth Avenue's posh Beverly Hills store after a sensational trial in which prosecutors repeatedly reminded jurors that the rich and famous were not above the law.
A jury of six men and six women convicted the 31-year-old Oscar-nominated actress of slipping out of Saks last December with some $5,500 of designer tops, handbags, hair bows and socks stuffed in her shopping bags and hidden on her person.
The jury panel, which included former Sony Pictures studio head Peter Guber and at least two others with Hollywood connections, found her guilty of grand theft and vandalism but not guilty of commercial burglary.
That charge would have required proof that she had deliberately gone to the store with intent to steal, legal experts said.
Ryder, who starred in "Girl, Interrupted" and was nominated twice for Oscars, sat wide-eyed and expressionless in the packed courtroom as the verdicts were read, but moments later appeared close to tears. She left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
She faces a possible prison term of up to three years when she is sentenced on Dec. 6, although most legal experts do not expect her to spend time behind bars.
Legal experts were surprised at the severity of the charges brought against her, saying that shoplifting cases seldom go to trial. Some suggested that she was singled out for her celebrity.
The verdict was carried live on nationwide television, crowding out coverage of a decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve to cut interest rates to a fresh four-decade low in an attempt to revive the sluggish economy.
Prosecutors said at trial that Ryder walked into the tony Saks store last December with a pair of scissors and cut sensor tags off handbags worth hundreds of dollars in what amounted to a "simple case of theft."
Ryder's attorney, Mark Geragos, suggested during his closing statement that she was the victim of a frame-up by store employees. Ryder did not testify.
The jurors did not look at Ryder when they came into the courtroom to report their verdict. The waif-like actress turned her head to look at her relatives and friends and gave a slight shake of the head as if she knew what was coming.
The courtroom was so packed with reporters and spectators that many were left standing.