She is a two-time Oscar nominee. She is a forever generational icon. She is...a sticky-finger artist?

The first sentence is fact; the second, debatable; the third, a matter for our judicial system to decide.

She is Winona Ryder. As the actress' shoplifting trial begins Thursday, with jury selection and last-minute lawyerly wrangling, here's our review of the case--the principals, the history, the T-shirts--to keep handy during the expected two-week proceedings. THE DEFENDANT: Winona Ryder, aka Winona Horowitz (her birth name).

AGE: 30 (31, as of October 29).

CREDITS (FILM): Best known for playing the gawky gamine in Gen X-era flicks Heathers (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Reality Bites (1994). Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee, The Age of Innocence (1993); Best Actress Oscar nominee, Little Women (1995). Most recently appeared in this summer's Mr. Deeds and Simone.

CREDITS (CRIMINAL): None known prior to shoplifting case, although prosecutors have said they will introduce as yet unspecified evidence reputedly showing prior misdeeds. No word if Autumn in New York (2000) is considered one of them.

THE CASE: Arrested December 12, 2001, outside Saks Fifth Avenue, 9600 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California, after store security reportedly observed the actress cutting sensor tags off merchandise, and stuffing de-tagged items into a bag and/or bags (she was toting four of them that day, including her purse). All told, prosecutors allege Ryder lifted 21 items, worth a grand sum of nearly $6,000.

DESIGNING WOMAN? Among Ryder's alleged haul: a dress by Gucci, a purse by Dolce & Gabbana, a sweater by Marc Jacobs, a handbag by Natori, and socks by Calvin Klein.

THE CHARGES: Felony grand theft, commercial burglary and vandalism. A drug charge--at the time of her arrest, cops said they found Ryder in possession of a prescription painkiller, oxycodone, for which she didn't have a prescription--was dropped, at the request of prosecutors.

THE REBUTTAL FROM THE PUBLICIST'S OFFICE: "We are shocked at what appear to be grossly exaggerated charges. We look forward to the opportunity to explain and resolve these allegations." (The statement from Ryder's rep in February, after charges were filed.)

THE PLEA: Innocent, to all charges.

THE STAKES: If convicted of the three remaining charges, Ryder faces up to three years in prison.

HER STORY: Per Ryder's camp, the actress is being targeted for prosecution by a district attorney's office that wants to bag a big-name conviction, just as she was unfairly targeted for arrest by a department store that wanted to bag a big-name arrest during the Christmas shopping season. Plus, her attorneys say, she has receipts for the items she's accused of stealing. Ryder's camp previously argued--for good reason, it turned out--she had a prescription for the painkiller she was accused of unlawfully possessing.

THE DEFENSE: Mark Geragos, lead attorney. Previous celeb clients include Whitewater figure Susan McDougal and Ally McBeal bad boy Robert Downey Jr.

THE PROSECUTION: Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Julie Jurek, assigned to prosecute Case No. SA 044291 in February. Fellow Deputy D.A. Ann Rundle fronted the case beginning in late summer.

THE JUDGE: Elden S. Fox, of the Los Angeles Superior Court in Beverly Hills.

LOWEST PRE-TRIAL MOMENT (DEFENSE): Saks' security manager testified that he mistook the Hollywood star for a bag lady when she entered the store on the day of her arrest. ("When I began to watch the defendant, absolutely I thought she was a homeless person," said Kenneth Evans.)


WOULD-BE STAR WITNESS: The Saks security-cam videotape. Does it, or doesn't it, show Ryder snipping tags, and stuffing bags? Early on, prosecutors bragged the tape would damn the actress; later, defense attorneys said it would exonerate her.

FRIENDS OF WINONA: While former costars Ben Stiller (Reality Bites) and Adam Sandler (Mr. Deeds) have made supportive comments in the press, so far the only notable to put in face time at the courthouse has been Mark Klaas, father of Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old girl from Ryder's hometown of Petaluma, California, whose cause the actress championed following her 1993 kidnap and subsequent murder.

WINONA CREDIT MOST LIKELY TO BE CITED DURING TRIAL COVERAGE: Girl, Interrupted (1999), her last major movie prior to arrest, and a title that lends itself nicely to headlines, à la, "Shoplifting Interrupted?" Reality Bites will be a close second for reasons involving the word "bites."

NOTE TO AUTOGRAPH SEEKERS: Please approach the defendant with caution. Ryder's got a fragile right wing (she broke it while making Mr. Deeds; she reinjured it on her way into court on June 3, due to a collision with a wayward TV camera).

FASHION ACCESSORY TO WATCH FOR: Ryder's blue arm sling. She modeled it following the TV camera incident. If she's wearing it on her right arm, she may be in pain, and require a timeout, as occurred during a pre-trial hearing. If she's wearing it on her left arm, somebody got her notes screwed up.

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