Stephen M. Silverman
October 24, 2002 11:00 AM

Thursday is court day for Winona Ryder, whose trial is finally set to begin in Beverly Hills.

The actress, 30, was charged last December with shoplifting nearly $6,000 worth of merchandise from the Beverly Hills branch of Saks Fifth Avenue. There have been several delays in the case, ranging from the actress’s alleged injury when press photographers roughed her up during one court visit, to her lead lawyer, Mark Geragos, having been busy with another case.

According to the Los Angeles Times, prosecutors allegedly contacted three employees from Saks’ retail neighbors along the posh shopping stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, Barneys and Neiman Marcus, to support a motion regarding possible “prior acts” by Ryder.

District Attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons declined to confirm the Times story to Reuters, telling the news service that the “prior acts” motion had been filed under seal and that the judge had yet to rule on whether it would be admitted in the trial.

“They are not doing justice. This is a district attorney that is about revenge not justice,” Ryder’s publicist Mara Buxbaum tells Reuters. The actress’s lawyers have insisted in court and in remarks to reporters that Saks targets its celebrity customers. A security officer from the store denied the accusation during an earlier hearing in the case.

Ryder, who faces three charges of grand theft, burglary and vandalism (a fourth charge, of illegal possession of a prescription painkiller, was dropped last week), has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The trial is expected to last two weeks. TV cameras will not be permitted in the courtroom.

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