The man accused of stealing Frances McDormand’s Oscar for best actress says that he will fight the felony charges pressed against him by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Terry Bryant appeared in court in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon to plead not guilty to swiping the coveted award. As the Los Angeles Times reports, Bryant’s attorney says that it was just a public relations stunt and that Bryant has a known history of showing up to award parties (his invite to the Governor’s Ball, it turns out, was legit) and posing with people’s awards.
But L.A. prosecutors say that Bryant really did intend to make off with the golden statue. And because an Oscar is valued at around $2,500, according to the police report, Bryant will be facing a felony count (the threshold for felony grand theft is $950).
It’s the kind of bizarre story you could only find in L.A., and for every reason to believe that Bryant really intended to take the prized statuette home, there’s another, equally plausible reason to believe it was just a prank.
Bryant has a history of arrests, the New York Daily News reports, including for assault, theft, trespassing and criminal mischief. But the arrests took place between 1999 and 2002, and it appears that Bryant has kept a clean slate for the last 16 years.
Bryant, in a now-deleted Facebook Live video, appeared to be leaving the party with the Oscar. His Facebook post showed him kissing the Oscar and bragging about his win.
“This is mine. We got it tonight, baby!” Bryant said. The Times reports that he then let other party attenders touch it. A woman can also be seen asking Bryant if he’s had his Oscar engraved yet.
Page Six reports that an Associated Press video shows Bryant leaving the Governor’s Ball proudly holding the Oscar over his head and saying, “All right, baby boys and baby girls.”
But Bryant quickly turned over the award after being confronted by a photographer. And, in yet another strange turn, the 47-year-old self-described producer has a history of holding awards he didn’t actually win. A scroll through his Instagram reveals that he snapped a photo of himself clutching an Oscar statuette just last year, at a Vanity Fair party. There are also ’grams of him allegedly holding a Screen Actors Guild Award in January, and an MTV Award last year.
For what it’s worth, McDormand didn’t want to press charges against Bryant, but as TMZ notes, she technically has no say in the matter, since the academy is considered the victim of the crime. It has decided to go forward with the case against Bryant.
Luckily for Bryant, legal experts tell the Times that the felony charges are unlikely to stick. Louis Shapiro, a criminal-defense attorney, told the paper that a judge “will almost certainly reduce [Bryant’s charge] to a misdemeanor.”
Shapiro cites questions about the value of the Oscar: Bryant’s attorney disputes its value, noting an academy rule that states that Oscars cannot be sold, and requires all owners of awards to first sell their statue back to the academy for a mere $1.
“Given the issues with the value of the property and totality of circumstances, I would expect [a misdemeanor charge] to happen,” Shapiro said.