A man accused of stealing Frances McDormand’s Oscar from an after party has a long history of theft convictions, a court was told.
Terry Bryant, 47, on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to swiping McDormand’s best actress Academy Award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as she celebrated at the Governors Ball on Sunday night.
Prosecutor Rena Durant told Los Angeles’ Foltz Criminal Justice Centre he has 13 primarily theft-related convictions from between 1994 and 2012.
However he was released from custody without having to pay bail after a judge heard testimony from his rabbi.
Bryant’s lawyer, Daniel Brookman, told a press conference they would “forcefully resist” the charges and defend him “very aggressively”.
He was flanked by Bryant’s rabbi, Naomi Levy, who described him as a “sweet, gentle man of faith”.
Judge Deborah Brazil said Ms Levy’s words and Bryant’s apparent lack of danger to the public had convinced her to free him without bail.
Prosecutors have said Bryant, an aspiring journalist, was witnessed taking the statuette before being detained near an exit.
Bryant wore prison-issue blue overalls in the dock as he was photographed and filmed by the press. The scene was a far cry from the tuxedo-wearing man who courted praise as he clutched the award at the exclusive ball.
“Look it, baby. My team got this tonight. This is mine,” he said, before planting a kiss on the Oscar’s head in a since deleted video selfie posted to his Facebook.
Bryant was also captured on video leaving the ball while brandishing the award to photographers, one of whom confronted him after not recognising him as a winner.
In court, he only spoke to confirm he had understood the judge’s demands after his lawyer entered the not guilty plea to one charge of grand theft of property.
Along with the thefts, Ms Durant said Bryant has failed to appear in court nine times previously, but he was released on his own recognisance to return on March 28.
Outside court, Mr Brookman addressed the footage, saying: “There’s a difference between holding an Oscar and what he is charged with, so that will play out in court.”
The lawyer added that Bryant’s behaviour was “out of character for anyone”, but would not comment on his mental state.
Mr Brookman also said he would contact McDormand after she reportedly called for Bryant not to be prosecuted.
Ms Levy, who said she has known Bryant for seven years, added: “I think we are living in an unusual time in America.
“I believe that maybe perhaps his story is a commentary on our whole society and its obsession with its 15 minutes of fame.”
Police said the Los Angeles resident handed the gold-plated bronze statuette back without a struggle and was arrested.
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said he faces up to three years in jail if convicted.
McDormand, 60, won her second best actress Oscar with Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Her publicist said she celebrated being “happily reunited” with the award with a double cheeseburger from California’s In-N-Out Burger chain.