BEVERLY HILLS, Calif – A Saks Fifth Avenue security official testified Monday that actress Winona Ryder admitted shoplifting and told him she was doing it to prepare for a movie role.
Ken Evans, giving testimony that surprised the defense, said he encountered Ryder after security guards detained her on Dec. 12 and while Saks officials in California and New York were trying to decide whether to refer the case to police.
"She was seated and she immediately stood up and took my hand," said Evans, the asset protection manager at the Beverly Hills store. "She said, 'I'm sorry for what I did. My director directed me to shoplift for a role which I was preparing.'"
Evans was not asked whether Ryder named a director or identified the role.
Ryder, 30, faces up to three years in prison if convicted of felony grand theft, vandalism and burglary. Prosecutors allege she stole items worth $5,560.40.
Evans, the trial's first witness, said he left the room where Ryder was held, came back and told her the case was being referred to police. He said she again spoke to him.
"She just said she was doing what her director told her to do in preparation for her role as a shoplifter," he said.
By then, he said, executives of the Saks company on both coasts had been notified.
"I explained that we have someone in custody for shoplifting and it's a high-profile person," he said.
He said he consulted with public relations people, a senior vice president, a security executive in New York and a corporate asset protection person in New York.
"They directed me not to call [police] until they made a decision," he said.
At that point in the testimony, Ryder defense attorney Mark Geragos objected that none of these comments by Evans had been disclosed to him by prosecutors. Superior Court Judge Elden Fox overruled the objection.
Jurors were then shown about 45 minutes of videotape of Ryder recorded by security cameras. The tape showed her walking around the store, her arms laden with packages and items she had taken off racks, with a hat bearing a price tag perched on her head.
The tape of her entire sojourn never showed her being approached by a salesperson as she walked the merchandise areas on three floors. At one point she began dropping things, went down on her hands and knees and placed small items inside a different hat.
When she finally entered a dressing room she was escorted by a saleswoman and within minutes a female security guard pretending to be a shopper entered the area. The prosecution intends to call witnesses to say that it was at that point Ryder was observed snipping security tags off garments.
Evans testified that Ryder was "polite but apologetic" after she left the store and was stopped by security guards who brought her back in and had her empty bags of merchandise.
Evans, who gave jurors a detailed account of Ryder's shopping on Dec. 12, said he first observed her via some of the 60 cameras that cover the store except inside dressing rooms. He said he didn't who she was and "I could care less."
In opening statements, Ryder was depicted by Deputy District Attorney Ann Rundle as a thief with a plan to shoplift.
"You will find that all this case amounts to is a simple case of theft, nothing more or less," Rundle told the panel.
Geragos countered that Ryder was the victim of overzealous security guards who never saw her steal anything.
"This is a case about a woman who has been wronged and wronged terribly. ... This is a case about some security guards who got out of control," he said.
Her attorney dismissed the videotape.
"It doesn't show her cutting off sensor tags or that she spent $3,700 there that day and they had her credit card," Geragos said.