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Actor Robert Downey Jr. to Appear in Court on Drug Charges

Aired January 29, 2001 - 4:25 p.m. ET


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Robert Downey Jr. out in California is making an appearance before the court there. Of course, he is up on drug charges that stem from his arrest, like, last Thanksgiving in Palm Springs at a hotel, resort hotel there. He is appearing before the court at Indio, California.

CNN following up on this case. We understood that there is some discussion under way this afternoon for a bit a postponement. Robert Downey Jr.'s lawyers wanted to take a look at additional material coming from the trial, wanted to get further analysis of drugs found at the hotel location where Robert Downey Jr. was arrested.

Again, that was last Thanksgiving. He was apparently there with another person and he was arrested inside -- after receiving report at the hotel. CNN's Paul Vercammen is following this case in Indio, California and he joins us now.

Paul, can you tell us what's going on in the courtroom at this point?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you exactly what's going on. Just a little while ago, Robert Downey Jr. took sort of a long, circuitous walk into this courthouse. It was a three-ring media circus and some supporters yelled, we are with you, Robert Downey Jr. and we love you and that sort of thing. He will now go inside, and they will deal with the matter at hand.

And what it looks like -- I just talked to the prosecutor as well, before she got in the courtroom, there has been no deal made at this point. So what is expected is that Downey's lawyers will ask for the continuance they've been seeking. They want more time to look over evidence, and in particular, the drugs that police allegedly found in Downey's hotel room.

The prosecutor says she has no problem with going along the wish for continuance, so, I guess the only wild card that would left is if the judge were to deem somehow in a different way. We'll just have to see what happens here. The courtroom is entirely packed right now with a lot of still photographers, so, you may see a burst of flash bulbs soon. And I can't see the monitor now, so make sure you let me know when the proceedings do begin. We're awaiting for them to start momentarily -- Joie.

CHEN: Paul, can you talk to us a little bit about what the defense has planned for the defense of Robert Downey Jr.? I mean, if they want to look further at the material that was found in the hotel room, what is their point?

VERCAMMEN: Well, for one, they will not tip their hand, but I know that members of the Downey camp have raised this point. They've got a problem with that 911 caller. They have suggested that possibly that isn't the best of witnesses, and maybe -- maybe perhaps authorities went to that hotel room under false pretenses. Don't forget, there was some talk that there was a gun in the hotel room.

Also, what remains to be seen is what's going to happen with this other charge of possession. It was cocaine possession and possession of Valium, and by the way, for a clarification, way back when, you might have heard methamphetamine, but that was incorrect. That came out in one of the reports. There could be a possibility and maybe down the road they will look at this, that maybe Downey had prescription for Valium. We don't than right now, and we don't know that if that will be a bone of contention. But that remains to be seen.

Otherwise, Downey's attorneys won't really give up too much. They've just sort of suggested that they've got some problems with the investigation. You may know that in Hollywood, there is a huge course of support for Downey. Mel Gibson for one. Curtis Hanson, who directed in "The Wonder Boys" and Sean Penn, who is usually very tight-lipped, does not think that Downey should go to prison, and we talked about that just the other day.


SEAN PENN, ACTOR: His particular case concerns me a great deal because he's somebody I know, a person who I care a great deal about. I think he is a poster boy for the fact that the prison doesn't cure it. And I think that, you know, he's our kid. He's -- he's us, and our kids are him. And if we don't come up with a better way, it's going to be them.


VERCAMMEN: And now back here live also, career wise for Robert Downey Jr., he was to be with Mel Gibson. Mel Gibson was to direct him in a live theater version of "Hamlet" somewhere in Los Angeles. And Gibson has said he does not want to do that play with anyone else but Downey, and that his heart goes out to Downey.

And so again, a lot of support for Downey in Hollywood and, of course, he just added yet another sort of glowing item to his resume. He won that Golden Globe for his performance on "Ally McBeal." He received it just last Sunday. He's been credited with sort of jump starting the show and increasing interest in the show, the buzz around it. He is Calista Flockhart's romantic interest. The ratings are up.

And so, we will see have to see what happens with the "Ally McBeal" situation because there had been some talk that he had signed on for 11 more episodes. But we checked with Fox, and that is not yet true or confirmed, and that he's not scheduled to go back to the set. Of course, they do have a whole batch of episodes left to shoot this season for "Ally McBeal." So, we'll wait and see if they go ahead of and ink some more for Robert Downey Jr. -- Joie.

CHEN: Hey Paul, what does Downey say about his own problems with drugs?

VERCAMMEN: That's interesting, because I was covering the Golden Globes last Sunday and he's not going to get into long, lengthy discourse about it, you can imagine. But he did answer the question and he did say, basically, I am doing the best I am can. I'm trying to right my ship. I'm trying very hard. So, he seems to be suggesting to all of us that he realizes that there is a problem and it's not that he's taking a cavalier approach to it.

So, that's been the latest that he said did about it and he was also, as you may have seen in the Golden Globes, more than willing to make a joke about his own travails and he suggested, you know, that he wanted to thank all other -- I think that he worded it this way, parolees and then he was talking about honorees as the Golden Globes. So, he's been jovial at times and willing to recognize that there is some trouble there.

CHEN: All right, Paul, we'll ask you to stand by and take a break here on CNN TODAY.



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