Los Angeles - A judge on Wednesday agreed to release without bail the man accused of stealing Frances McDormand’s Academy Award, while his attorney vowed to fight a felony grand theft charge he says is excessive and undeserved.
Terry Bryant, 57, who has been jailed since his Sunday night arrest, appeared behind glass in the courtroom in a blue jail jumpsuit and pleaded not guilty.
His attorney Daniel Brookman had argued that the previous bail amount of $20 000 was unnecessary, calling the Oscar situation a momentary aberration. He said Bryant has had no contact with law enforcement for six years and represented no threat to the community.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Deborah S. Brazil said she was concerned by Bryant’s four prior felony convictions on theft-related charges and his past failures to appear in court, which prosecutors argued should keep the bail unchanged.
But Brazil agreed that several years of good behaviour and the lack of a threat to the community justified Bryant’s release.
Brookman acknowledged that Bryant can be seen on an Associated Press video holding McDormand’s best actress statuette but said those images don’t rise to the seriousness of felony grand theft.
Brookman said he intends to reach out to McDormand to see if she’ll provide help and perhaps tell authorities she doesn’t want his client prosecuted.
Brookman said the grand theft charge isn’t justified for swiping an Oscar because despite their cultural value, street value is very limited by the fact that the film academy keeps a stake in their ownership and controls how they can be used.
“They’re very difficult to pawn or sell,” Brookman said.
Bryant could get three years in jail if convicted.
Naomi Levy, a rabbi who came to court to support Bryant, said he is part of her spiritual congregation and never misses meeting.
“He’s a sweet and gentle man of faith,” Levy said.
Brookman cited her presence in court when he asked for Bryant’s release, saying she could attest to the special role he played as part of her community. The judge said that influenced her decision to release Bryant on his own recognisance.
“What can I say,” Levy said as she walked out of the courtroom. “I take care of my flock.”