Lindsay Lohan is shown in surveillance video broadcast Monday texting and trying on multiple pieces of jewelry in front of a clerk in a Southern California store that has accused her of stealing a $2,500 necklace.
Snippets of the footage taken by four cameras in the Venice store of Kamofie & Co were aired by Entertainment Tonight along with analysis by attorneys not handling the case.
The show obtained nearly 45 minutes of footage from the store's four security cameras, which captured the actress smiling as she entered the Venice shop on Jan 22.
Entertainment Tonight said it plans to air footage showing Lohan wearing the necklace involved in her criminal case during a show on Tuesday.
Lohan returns to court on Thursday, when her attorney will tell a judge whether the Mean Girls actress will accept a plea deal in the felony grand theft case that guarantees a jail sentence.
The video was sold by a representative of Kamofie to a commercial images unit of The Associated Press, which then licensed it exclusively to Entertainment Tonight.
Christopher Spencer, a crisis management expert who represents the jewelry store, explained in a statement Monday the reason the footage was sold.
"Most important, we were upset with the various mischaracterizations we were seeing and hearing about the video and its contents, and we felt the video should be allowed to speak for itself," Spencer's statement read.
"There were also many media inquiries asking for release of the video, which is not any sort of secret evidence. The bottom line is we felt there was far too much speculation about the video recording, and that it was right for the public to be able to see the video itself."
A website, necklacevideo.com, has been registered and may be used to stream the video online at a later date.
The footage's release could impact Lohan's criminal case, which is the most serious charge the troubled actress has faced.
Los Angeles Superior Court judge Keith Schwartz has promised to send Lohan to jail if she accepts a plea deal to end the case early.
The surveillance video almost certainly would have been aired at a preliminary hearing if Lohan decided to fight the case.
Lohan's attorney, Shawn Holley, did not return phone messages seeking comment.
John Lynch, a district attorney's supervisor who has overseen Lohan's case, said its early release was unfortunate.
"You like to present your evidence in the courtroom," Lynch said.
"That just doesn't happen as often as it used to."
He noted that he would not authenticate the footage Entertainment Tonight aired.
"With regard to the question of Lindsay Lohan's guilt or innocence, we repeat that Kamofie and Company never gave permission to Ms Lohan to remove the necklace from the store," Spencer said in his statement.
"The rest is up to the jury."
Several defence attorneys contacted by the AP said the release probably benefits Lohan as she seeks to negotiate a better plea deal or will try to prove her innocence.
"I think it gives the defense a plea bargaining chip or a sentencing chip," said Stan Goldman, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
He said the release has complicated the case for prosecutors.
"They had a nice straightforward theft case," Goldman said.
"Now they've got something that's really being messed up by the victims in the case trying to get something out of it. You want your victims to be sympathetic."
Criminal defence attorney Mark Geragos, who defended actress Winona Ryder in her shoplifting case, said, "It certainly lends credence to the defense position that the store created this 'crime' for a promotional opportunity."
Spencer said Kamofie was not seeking to profit from the tape's release.
"Any suggestion that this was a publicity stunt or that there was a profit motive is a distraction from the fact that releasing the tape will allow the onslaught of calls and emails to receive the response as to what is on the video," he wrote.