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Robert Downey Jr. Hearing May Face Short Delay; Plea Bargain Possible

Aired January 29, 2001 - 1:53 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A hearing this afternoon in Indio, California could help decide the fate of actor Robert Downey Jr. You may recall Downey was arrested on drug charges over Thanksgiving weekend,, barely three months after getting out of prison on a prior drug conviction. Today's hearing was scheduled so prosecutors could offer a plea bargain, but there may be a delay.

CNN's Paul Vercammen joins us now with the latest -- Paul.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, it almost certainly sounds like there is going to be a delay, after talking with attorneys.

They say that the lawyers for Downey want more time to conduct some lab tests of the drugs that police say they allegedly found in Downey's hotel room. And that was over the Thanksgiving weekend. And the prosecutor has told me, just a short time ago, that she is willing to go along with that. So they expect this to be a rather trip quick trip in and out of court, and that a continuance will be granted.

Meanwhile, as for Downey's career, he now has another major reward to put in his trophy room.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT DOWNEY JR., ACTOR: I just want to share this with my fellow parolees -- I mean, nominees.

(LAUGHTER)

DOWNEY: ... and just say that this really means a lot.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): A week ago, Robert Downey Jr. won a Golden Globe award for his supporting performance on "Ally McBeal." Before the ceremony, Downey would only say of his latest legal troubles:

DOWNEY: I'm doing everything I can to do the right thing. That's all.

VERCAMMEN: Downey is scheduled to return to court in Indio, California this afternoon. The actor is charged with possession of cocaine, possession of Valium and being under the influence of a controlled substance. The charges stem from his arrest in a Palm Springs hotel suite Thanksgiving weekend.

Downey pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. Downey was released from prison last August after serving time for repeatedly violating terms of his probation on a prior drug conviction. Many in Hollywood are rallying around Downey, professing drug addicts should not be put behind bars.

SEAN PENN, ACTOR: His particular care concerns me a great deal because he is somebody I know, personally care a great deal about. I think he's a poster boy for the fact that prison doesn't cure it.

VERCAMMEN: Curtis Hanson directed Downey in the highly-acclaimed film," Wonder Boys."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "WONDER BOYS")

DOWNEY: I'm going to ask you a question: Did you or did you not...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURTIS HANSON, DIRECTOR: Robert is a great talent. And he has an addiction problem. And addiction problems don't go away just by turning a key or through force of will.

VERCAMMEN: Downey is in talks with Mel Gibson to do a live theater version of "Hamlet" in Los Angeles under Gibson's direction.

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR: What's going on with him is -- it's kind of like his business. And it's like, I pray for him. And he prays for himself. But he's going to be OK. He's got a good heart.

VERCAMMEN: Downey's supporters hope the actor's latest brush with the law does not put him back in prison and off the set.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERCAMMEN: Now back it here live in Indio. Prosecutor Tamera Capone (ph) told me that they want to the resolve this issue as quickly as possible, and that both sides have been talking about a possible plea bargain or settlement. She said that she will not go into detail about that, but she does expect that this case will, at some point, be settled -- Natalie.

ALLEN: It's an incredible story, Paul. What about Robert Downey Jr.'s future on "Ally McBeal"?

VERCAMMEN: That's a great question, Natalie, because he's had a very positive impact on the show, not only in the ratings, but in stirring up buzz about the show. Obviously, he got the Golden Globe as a supporting role. And there was some talk last week that he had signed up for 11 additional episodes.

Well, we checked with the people at Fox. And they say that has not been confirmed yet, and that he has not inked up and is not going back to the set in the immediate future. So we will just have to see if this is resolved and if Downey signs up for another tour of duty on "Ally McBeal" -- back to you, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Paul Vercammen thanks. We'll wait and hear from you.

It's unusual. We see him at the Golden Globes and we see him there in court. So we will continue to follow the story -- and also this afternoon, coming up, live coverage of his court appearance -- if that is continuing to happen -- at 4:30 Eastern.

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