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Actor Robert Downey Jr. checks into rehab facility

SANTA MONICA, California, (Reuters) -- Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr. checked himself into a residential drug rehabilitation facility immediately after being freed unexpectedly from a California prison, his lawyer said Thursday.

Downey, 35, was released on $5,000 bail Wednesday after a three-judge appeals court panel ruled that Superior Court Judge Lawrence Mira had erred in sentencing the actor in August 1999 to three years in prison for drug possession.

The appeals court said Mira did not take into account time Downey had spent in court-ordered rehab and ruled the actor ended up serving more than enough time to fulfill his sentence.

Prosecutors have not decided whether to challenge the opinion, a spokesman said.

Downey's lawyer, Robert Waters, said his client was "glad to be out" and would focus his attention on "putting his life back together and putting this behind him."

"He is now in a sober living environment," Waters told reporters at his law office in Santa Monica. "I think he's committed himself to a life of sobriety."

Waters said the first thing Downey wanted when he got out of prison was a hamburger. He had been housed since August 1999 in a substance abuse treatment facility at the Corcoran State Prison in central California. Another unit of the prison houses such notorious inmates as mass killer Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Unless state prosecutors challenge Wednesday's ruling, Downey will remain free on bail, with no court-imposed restrictions, for 40 days, at which time the appellate decision becomes final, and he would be placed on parole, Waters said.

For now, Downey has voluntarily submitted to a residential "after-care treatment" program, Waters said, adding that Downey would live at the undisclosed Southern California facility until his "parole kicks in."

Downey, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his title role in the 1992 film "Chaplin," currently has no acting projects in the works, said his spokesman Alan Nierob.

"That's not really in the realm of consciousness at this very moment," Nierob told Reuters, adding, "I think he'll resume working as he was before he was incarcerated. His talents have always been in demand, and I see no reason for that to change."

Downey's last film appearance was earlier this year with Michael Douglas in "Wonder Boys."

Downey, who has said he had been addicted to drugs since the age of eight, told Vanity Fair magazine in June he was depressed and angry in prison and had not used drugs since June 1999.

Judge Mira ordered Downey to spend three years behind bars for violating his probation on a 1996 cocaine possession charge and three misdemeanor counts by repeatedly missing mandatory drug tests. He was eligible for parole in November.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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