The case of Frances McDormand's Oscar: Grand theft or publicity stunt gone too far?

Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Some legal experts said they doubt the felony charge would stick.

"I think a judge will almost certainly reduce this to a misdemeanor at a preliminary hearing," said criminal defense attorney Louis Shapiro, noting there is a penal code section for such action. "Given the issues with the value of the property and totality of circumstances, I would expect that to happen."

Shapiro said Bryant's case also has issues based on the videos that have emerged. "The circumstances of the incident aren't that favorable to Mr. Bryant. ... It looked like he was leaving," he said.

Prosecutors say McDormand's lead actress prize for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" was at the Governors Ball when the theft occurred.

Like all award winners, she went to the ball so she could have her statuette engraved, and later realized it was missing. When McDormand told a Los Angeles Times photographer she lost her Oscar, Bryant was nearby with it.

As he drank champagne, Bryant posted a Facebook Live video, holding the golden statuette up and gloating to others at the party about the prize his "team" was taking home.

"This is mine. We got it tonight, baby!" He then proceeds to let people touch it. A woman is seen asking if he's had the Oscar engraved yet.

Los Angeles Police Sgt. Meghan Aguilar said a photographer stopped Bryant before he could take off with the statuette. She said the photographer did not recognize Bryant as one of the winners, so the photographer followed him and took the statuette from him without any resistance.

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The photographer notified security, who apprehended Bryant. The LAPD arrested Bryant at 11:50 p.m. at the party site inside the Hollywood & Highland complex where the Oscars awards show is held.

Bryant had a legitimate ticket to the party, Aguilar said.

Based on Bryant's social media postings, it isn't the first time he has held an Oscar. His Instagram includes a photo he says was taken at a Vanity Fair party that shows him holding an Oscar statuette in 2017. There are also Instagram images of him of holding what he claims is a Screen Actors Guild award in January and an MTV popcorn award in 2017.

As of Wednesday, Bryant remained in the L.A. County Jail on $20,000 bail.

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