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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 17:58 GMT
Winona charges may be dropped
Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder has been acting since her teens
Prosecutors in Los Angeles are considering whether to press shoplifting and drug possession charges against Hollywood actress Winona Ryder.

The 30-year-old star was arrested on Wednesday night in Beverley Hills after allegedly attempting to steal clothes, hair accessories and a handbag worth more than £3,500.

She was also found in possession of a prescription drug without a valid prescription.

When the facts come out, it will be clear that there was no theft involved

Mark Geragos
Ms Ryder's lawyer

But Ms Ryder's lawyer, Mark Geragos, said there had been "a misunderstanding" and she was innocent of the shoplifting claims.

The Beverly Hills District Attorney's office is considering whether Ms Ryder should be tried on the charges of grand theft and possessing pharmaceuticals without a prescription, or if they should be dropped.

A spokeswoman said police reports were currently being reviewed and told the Los Angeles Times: "We haven't been presented any evidence to look at."

Ms Ryder will appear at Beverly Hills Superior Court on 11 January if prosecutors go ahead with the charges.

She was arrested at prestigious department store Saks Fifth Avenue on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, one of Los Angeles' top shopping addresses.

Winona Ryder
The actress was in the UK for the Planet of the Apes première

Security guards stopped her as she left and called police who arrested and handcuffed her and took her to police headquarters, where she was later released on £14,000 bail.

She had allegedly been seen grabbing clothes and hair accessories, using a pair of scissors to remove security tags and stuffing them into a large bag.

Mr Geragos said she had already bought several items of clothing and the arrest followed a mix-up between two shop assistants.

"When the facts come out, it will be clear that there was no theft involved," said the lawyer.

"It was not a situation where she had decided to take anything."

'A true lady'

He added that she had a valid prescription for the drugs but could not show it to police at the time.

Lieutenant Gary Gilmond, of Beverly Hills Police Department, said the Oscar-nominated actress had been co-operative and showed no signs of being under the influence of drink or drugs.

"She was very courteous, polite, friendly - a true lady," said Lt Gilmond.

Ms Ryder has refused to comment and Saks have also refused to be drawn on the arrest.

Mystery illness

The actress had been due to star in independent British film Lily and the Secret Planting, but pulled out of shooting in London in August when she was admitted to hospital with a stomach upset.

She said she was disappointed to withdraw from the project, but refused to discuss the mystery illness, which prompted her to return to her £2 million Beverly Hills mansion after spending two days in hospital.

The goddaughter of LSD guru Dr Timothy Leary, she has twice been nominated for an Oscar, for the lead role in 1994's Little Women and for best supporting actress in Martin Scorsese' s 1993 version of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence.

Broken engagement

But she has been best known for her long-term relationship with actor Johnny Depp, which prompted him to have "Winona Forever" tattooed on his arm.

She later broke off her engagement with Depp, who now lives in France with wife Vanessa Paradis, and last year split from actor Matt Damon.

At 20 she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and was committed to a psychiatric ward. Earlier this year, she told Harper's Bazaar: "I was in a really bad state."

Ryder first found fame in 1988 comedy Beetlejuice, playing a morose teenage, while her latest starring role was in Satanic thriller Lost Souls, where she played the survivor of a childhood exorcism.

See also:

14 Aug 01 | Film
Stars attend Apes UK premiere
15 Aug 01 | Film
In Pictures: Apes UK premiere
28 Mar 00 | Oscars 2000
American Beauty's Oscar triumph
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