LOS ANGELES -- Was the great Oscar caper of 2018 actually just a stunt from a publicity-seeking celebrity wannabe?
That was the question as Terry Bryant faced his first court hearing after picking up Frances McDormand's Oscar statuette at the Governors Ball after the Academy Awards and mugging to the cameras with it.
Bryant's attorney says it was just a stunt from a man known to attend awards parties, rub elbows with the famous and hoist up their awards. But L.A. prosecutors see it differently, charging him with felony grand theft.
Bryant appeared in a downtown Los Angeles court Wednesday and pleaded not guilty.
"There is a big difference between holding an Oscar and what he is charged with," said Daniel Brookman, Bryant's attorney. Brookman said Bryant, 47, will vigorously fight the case. "I don't think his character matches these charges."
Brookman alludes to another question: What kind of thief would make a Facebook video bragging about his brush with the Oscar?
Sponsored Video Stories from LifeZette
Authorities said they believe Bryant had every intention of leaving the ball with the Oscar, pointing out that in one video he says the Oscar belongs to his "team."
To prove felony grand theft, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office must show Bryant intended to permanently deprive the academy and McDormand of the award.
Then there is the question of the value of an Oscar. Prosecutors charged Bryant with a single felony count for taking the statuette because it is worth more than $950. An LAPD report listed its value at $2,500.
But Brookman notes that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences makes it clear that an Oscar cannot be sold. Rule 10 of the academy requires that owners of awards first offer to sell the statuette back to the academy for $1 before disposing of it by any other means.