Orleans prosecutors charge baker-turned-actor Dwight Henry with felony theft _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Baker Dwight Henry in the French Quarter Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Dwight Henry, a New Orleans baker who became a minor celebrity for his roles in two critically acclaimed films, has been charged by Orleans Parish prosecutors with stealing about $1,000 from a former employer last fall.

Henry, best known for his lead role in the 2012 independent film “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” faces one count of felony theft filed by District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office March 10. He could spend up to five years in prison if convicted.

Henry, who posted $10,000 bail after his arrest last fall, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for arraignment.

The charge stems from an October incident in which Henry allegedly barged into the Buttermilk Drop Bakery & Café on North Dorgenois Street before daybreak. According to a police report, Henry “arrived at the bakery and began working at the cash register.”

He “then removed all the contents of the drawer, placed it into his pockets and left the location,” the report says.

Henry apparently had become upset with the bakery’s management after parting ways with the business and opening his own Wink’s Buttermilk Drop Bakery & Bistro near the French Market. Henry has maintained he held a stake in the other business that apparently was not committed to writing, court documents show.

He previously served as head baker at the Buttermilk Drop Bakery but had not worked there for at least two years at the time of the alleged theft, according to management.

Henry’s agent and supporters have called the incident a misunderstanding, and they insisted last fall that the charges would be dropped.

“This is going to end up a civil matter and not a criminal matter,” Henry’s cousin, Troy Henry, a former mayoral candidate in New Orleans, told The New Orleans Advocate last year. Troy Henry said at the time that the division of assets at the bakery had been “fairly complicated,” but he said there had been “an understanding amongst the parties about how proceeds and equities would be divided up.”

The falling out has spawned litigation in Civil District Court.

The manager of the Buttermilk Drop Bakery received a temporary restraining order against Dwight Henry in November after a second incident in which he allegedly returned to the bakery, forced his way through a service window “and again threatened to cause bodily harm” to the manager. Henry, meanwhile, filed suit against the bakery in December.

An attorney for Henry did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.

Henry, 52, had no previous acting experience when he landed the lead role as Wink in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a film that earned four Academy Award nominations, including for best picture. He played a smaller part in the Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave.” He’s also set to appear in “Sexual Healing,” portraying the father of singer Marvin Gaye Jr. in the forthcoming biopic.

The theft charge is not Henry’s first run-in with the law. Court records show an arrest record dating to 1988.

Prosecutors said in November that they were re-examining a 2006 homicide in which Henry was arrested — though not charged — in the fatal stabbing of Leroy Paige. Witnesses implicated Henry in the stabbing, but former District Attorney Eddie Jordan’s office apparently refused the case due to credibility issues with a key witness.

Investigative police reports show witnesses offered conflicting accounts of whether Henry instigated the dispute with Paige or acted in self-defense.

Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office, said recently that prosecutors had not yet completed their review of the case.

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.