Winona shops and chats, but leaked video shows no theft

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This is not a film performance that is going to garner Winona Ryder any Oscar nominations.

On the other hand, it could just get her off the hook on four criminal charges of shoplifting, vandalism and illegal possession of a prescription drug.

After months of ridicule in the media over her allegedly unorthodox Christmas shopping escapade at a ritzy Beverly Hills store – she is accused of filching almost $5,000 (£3,500) worth of designer clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue – the diminutive actress, 30, began the fight to restore her reputation yesterday in the best way she knows how.

In selective leaks to the media, her lawyer released the 90-minute surveillance video that prosecutors previously claimed to be damning evidence against her.

A news release from the district attorney's office had alleged, a month ago, that the tape showed Ms Ryder using scissors to cut anti-theft tags from the clothes. But the tape, at least in the form seen by the Los Angeles Times and others, shows no such thing. Instead, plentiful footage shows Ms Ryder shopping, carrying and occasionally dropping bags, chatting to sales assistants and trying on hats.

Some questions remain unanswered about sales tags that appear in one segment and disappear by the next. But the only thing Ms Ryder is actually seen stuffing into her bag, the Times reporter writes, is the paper wrapper from a straw.

"Who are you going to believe, the witnesses or your own eyes?" Ms Ryder's lawyer, Mark Geragos, asked reporters as he left a brief court hearing on Monday. "All of this supposed smoking gun evidence doesn't appear to be there."

A pre-trial hearing in the case is scheduled for tomorrow.