Winona Ryder shoplifting charge 'a misunderstanding'

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The Independent Culture

The arrest of the actress Winona Ryder on shoplifting and drug possession charges was "a misunderstanding", her lawyer said last night.

Ms Ryder was charged with grand theft after being stopped in an upmarket Beverly Hills store where she had allegedly grabbed clothes worth £3,500, used scissors to remove security tags and stuffed them into a large bag. She was also found to have an anti-depressant, Zoloft, without a valid prescription.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles were considering whether to press charges last night. But Ms Ryder's lawyer, Mark Geragos, said she had already bought items at Saks Fifth Avenue on Wilshire Boulevard when two shop assistants became mixed up and police were called. She was handcuffed and taken to police headquarters before being released on £14,000 bail.

"When the facts come out, it will be clear there was no theft involved," Mr Geragos said. "It was not a situation where she had decided to take anything."

Named after her home town of Winona, Minnesota, Ms Ryder was brought up by hippy parents on a commune. Her godfather was the late LSD guru Dr Timothy Leary.

Still only 30, Ms Ryder's film career began with her appearance as a morose teenager in the 1988 comedy Beetlejuice, and includes two Oscar nominations, for best actress in 1994's Little Women and best supporting actress in Merchant Ivory'sAge of Innocence the year before.

Her elegant beauty has illuminated films such as Dracula, Reality Bites and Alien Resurrection. But her penchant for playing angst-ridden women – most recently in the 1999 film Girl Interrupted, about a teenager recovering from mental illness – mirrors her own troubled personal life.

Once engaged to the actor Johnny Depp – who had "Winona Forever" tattooed on his arm – she spent time in a psychiatric ward suffering from nervous exhaustion after they split. She was 19. Subsequent romances with the actors Matt Damon and Christian Slater foundered. Earlier this year, she withdrew from filming the independent British film Lily and the Secret Planting with a mystery illness.