General News

DA Will Stay on Ryder's Case

By:
Jul 15, 2002 | 12:19pm EDT

Winona Ryder didn't have to show up for the latest court date in the ongoing saga involving her shoplifting arrest, but the judge ensured that both she and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office would be back before his bench next month when he refused her attorney's bid to replace the prosecutors.

Attorney Mark Geragos had sought to have the district attorney's office removed from the case and replaced with lawyers the California attorney general's office, filing a motion claiming that county prosecutors had "an axe to grind" against his client and had behaved in an unprofessional manner.

"I'm ascribing to them efforts to humiliate my client and stop her from having the right to a fair trial," said Geragos, who claimed district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons inaccurately described a department store security videotape early in the case, alleging that Ryder was caught on camera using scissors to remove anti-theft tags from merchandise. He said there's no such scene on the videotape.

However, Superior Court Judge Elden S. Fox ruled that Geragos had not shown sufficient cause to persuade him to replace the district attorney's office, which has denied having any specific beef with the Oscar-nominated actress. Fox decreed that inaccurate comments did not indicate bias on behalf of Steve Cooley, the current district attorney, or any of his staff. Both sides were ordered to return to court August 13, when the trial date will be set.

Assistant Attorney General Sharlene Honnaka was also on hand to testify in an attempt to keep her office from assuming the case. Honnaka said she believed there was inadequate reason to disqualify the district attorney's office.

The shoplifiting charges against Ryder--who has entered a plea of not guilty and is free on $20,000 bail--stem from a December felony arrest at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills in which she was accused of attempting to steal over $5,000 worth of merchandise after store security officers allegedly observed her cutting security sensor tags off of items in a fitting room. She is also charged with the illegal possession of painkillers. If convicted, she faces more than three years in prison.

During Ryder's preliminary hearing, Geragos argued that the actress, 30, had indeed paid for the purchases and has publicly suggested that the department store wanted to stage a high-profile shoplifting arrest during the busy holiday season and targeted his famous client. Geragos did not indicate if he would appeal today's ruling.

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