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Saturday, 2 November, 2002, 05:30 GMT
Guard 'was out to frame Winona'
Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder denies she was shoplifting
Lawyers for Winona Ryder have opened their defence in her trial for shoplifting with an allegation that a key witness fabricated evidence out of resentment at the Hollywood star's success.

Defence witness Michael Shoar said that the security chief at Saks Fifth Avenue, Kenneth Evans, had confessed to wanting to "nail" the star of Little Women and The Age of Innocence.


He said he would bring her down one way or another

Michael Shoar
defence witness
"He mentioned that he will basically nail that rich Beverly Hills bitch for shoplifting charges," Mr Shoar told the court in Los Angeles.

Prosecutor Ann Rundle immediately challenged Mr Shoar's evidence, suggesting that he himself had an axe to grind as a former employee of the store who was suing it on an unrelated issue.

Mr Shoar, who was not working at the store when Ms Ryder was challenged, said Mr Evans had confided in him shortly after her arrest on 12 December last year that he was "making up evidence".

It is unclear whether Ms Ryder, who is free on bail of $20,000, will take the witness stand herself in the Beverly Hills Superior Court.

She is accused of trying to steal more than $5,500 (3,500) of designer goods from the Saks store and denies the charges.

'Misunderstanding'

Judge Elden Fox issued Ms Ryder's lawyer, Mark Geragos, with a stern warning to stop accusing prosecution witnesses of perjury after an exchange on Thursday.

The prosecution's main witness, former Saks security guard Colleen Rainey, had told the court that she had seen Ms Ryder remove security tags from items in the shop.

Colleen Rainey
Rainey said she had seen the actress "removing security tags"
But, during cross-examination, Mr Geragos suggested the former security guard had invented her account and had tried to profit from it.

Winona Ryder - who denies felony charges of grand theft, commercial burglary and vandalism - could face three years in jail if convicted.

Her lawyer has suggested the incident at Saks was a misunderstanding and his client had receipts for the allegedly stolen items, which included designer clothes, handbags, socks and hats.

He has also suggested that, recognising Ms Ryder as a celebrity, the staff at Saks "got out of control".

'For a film'

The head of security at Saks said earlier this week that the actress, who was arrested outside the shop, had claimed that her director had told her to steal to prepare for a film role as a shoplifter.

Previous witnesses had testified that Ms Ryder told them she was preparing for a role in a movie called Shopgirl.

Winona Ryder at Cannes Film Festival, 1998
Ryder dominated Hollywood films in the 1990s
She later allegedly said the movie was to be White Jazz. Neither film has been produced.

Ms Ryder is also known for roles in films such as Reality Bites, Beetlejuice and Girl, Interrupted.

The jury in the trial includes several of Ms Ryder's Hollywood peers - including the former head of Sony Pictures, the studio that made three of her films.

The trial has gripped the American media as Ms Ryder turns up each day in court dressed in black and supported by friends and family.

See also:

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11 Jun 02 | Entertainment
14 Dec 01 | Entertainment
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