Downey Jr. Avoids Jail For Drug Charges 010716
Chelsea J. Carter of the Associated Press reported on July 16, 2001
that Robert Downey Jr. pleaded no contest to
two cocaine-related charges in a plea bargain that will keep the actor out
Under the deal, reached under California's
Proposition 36, a new policy of stressing cure over punishment in drug
cases, Downey was sentenced to one year in a live-in rehabilitation
program and three years of probation. He will have to pay a series of
fines and was ordered to comply with a set of regulations including random
The actor, nominated for an Oscar for the
film ``Chaplin'' and for an Emmy just last week for ``Ally McBeal,''
pleaded no contest to one count of possessing cocaine and one count of
being under the influence. A third charge was dropped.
Superior Court Judge Randall White
explained the terms of the deal and warned Downey he could go to prison
for up to four years if he violated the terms of the deal.
Downey, 36, was arrested at Merv Griffin's
Resort Hotel and Givenchy Spa in Palm Springs last November. Authorities
allegedly found the drugs in his hotel room after receiving an anonymous
Downey checked into a Malibu drug
rehabilitation center after he was arrested yet again in April, this time
in Culver City, and tests showed he had traces of cocaine in his system.
The arrest cost him his ``Ally McBeal'' role, but prosecutors decided to
handle it simply as a parole violation. No charges will be filed.
The deal to settle the Palm Springs charge
was struck under Proposition 36, which California voters approved last
year. It removes the threat of prison for drug offenders unless they are
charged three more times with drug violations or repeatedly fail to
cooperate in treatment.
``This is not a gift of the court,'' White
told Downey. ``This is going to be hard work. It can provide a tremendous
benefit to you and to the public as well. But you are going to have to
work at it.''
Outside court, defense attorney James
Epstein said Downey is in good spirits, and grateful that ``the state of
California is now treating his problem as an illness and not a crime.''
His attorneys said Downey could undertake
acting jobs while in rehab but at present wants to concentrate on his
recovery. Any such jobs would have to be approved by authorities and
Deputy District Attorney Tamara Capone said
she was pleased with the outcome, too.
``We got the conviction. That was the most
important thing,'' she said. ``Under the new law, I can't be that
Downey's legal troubles date back to 1996
when he was stopped for speeding and authorities found cocaine, heroin and
a pistol in his vehicle. A month later he was found passed out in a
neighbor's home and was hospitalized at a substance-abuse treatment
center. Three days later, he was arrested for leaving the center.
In August 1999, Downey was sentenced to
three years in prison for violating his probation by missing scheduled
drug tests. He was released a year later on $5,000 bail.