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Robert Downey Jr. Sentenced to Three Years Probation

Aired July 16, 2001 - 12:14   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking now at a live picture from a courtroom in Indio, California. The two gentlemen you see there are not at the center of attention; the man of the hour, if you will, is behind them: Robert Downey Jr. is in this courtroom, and he will be facing the judge and entering his plea any moment now.

Moments ago, all the lawyers in the case were in chambers with the judge. In part, they were discussing the plea bargain which is to be entered here. They just have not made everything official.

Our Paul Vercammen is standing by outside.

Paul, for folks who are just joining us, give us a recap.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Basically, as we've been talking all, morning Robert Downey Jr. is here to end this chapter that began with his arrest in a Palm Springs resort hotel over Thanksgiving weekend. That was on one charge of felony possession of cocaine and a misdemeanor charge of being under the influence of a controlled substance. What was to happen here this morning is, after hammering out this plea bargain agreement, Downey would enter this no contest plea, and it would effectively allow him to continue his drug rehabilitation in a Malibu center and avoid going to prison again. He's been there before, of course.

This basically would fit into the spirit of the law.

And he's now standing. I think, Leon, I will step aside and allow you to hear what's going on inside the courtroom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Superior Court of the state of California, County of Riverside, is now in session, the honorable presiding. Please be seated and come to order.

JUDGE RANDALL WHITE, RIVERSIDE COUNTY COURT: Let's call the matter of the People v. Downey.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, James Epstein, Michael Adelson, and Ross Nabatoff for Mr. Downey.

WHITE: The first matter we needed to deal with had to do with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) petition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If your honor would allow me to, I would like to sponsor Mr. Nabatoff to represent Mr. Downey (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WHITE: All right, I have signed the order with respect to that, and that will be filed.


WHITE: And it's my understand, pursuant to our discussion in chambers, that there is going to be a change of plea; is that correct?

CAPONE: There is your honor. The specifics of the plea, as Mr. Downey will be pleading no contest to count one of the complaint, count three of the complaint -- and admitting the prior offense, this plea is pursuant to Proposition 36, also known as penal code section 1210 etcetera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sit down. Have a seat. Take a seat.

CAPONE: The negotiated disposition calls for three years former probation and at least one year in a rehab., which is Wave Length International, to which Mr. Downey already admitted. That is the specifics of the plea.

In addition to the stated terms and conditions, there will be a 120-day review on November 15, I believe. And Mr. Downey will need to appear for that.

WHITE: I presume that means that count two will be dismissed?

CAPONE: Yes, People move to dismiss count two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the agreement, your honor, and on behalf of Mr. Downey, we would now withdraw all pending motions of demur that are now pending before the court.

WHITE: I will accept that withdrawal.

And the court has before it an advisement of right wavering plea form for felonies and misdemeanors under Prop. 36. There are initials and signature on this form which indicate a plea to health and safety code section 11350, with a three-year maximum in state prison; health and safety code section 11550, with one-year maximum in custody; and 667.5 (b), which is a one-year additional state prison commitment, for total possible commitment in state prison of four years.

The people are accepting a nolo contendere plea?

CAPONE: Yes, your honor.

WHITE: There is an indication of a plea of no contest.

Just one moment.

All right, Mr. Downey, do you understand all the rights you are giving up, sir?

ROBERT DOWNEY JR., ACTOR: I do, your honor.

WHITE: Do you understand all of the consequences of your plea?

DOWNEY: Yes, I do.

WHITE: Do you understand the maximum possible consequence to be four years in state prison?

DOWNEY: Four years, your honor, yes.

WHITE: Do you understand that if you are granted the Prop. 36 program, and you are allowed to go into probation, that if you violate any terms and conditions of that probation that you may be sentenced to state prison for up to the maximum term?

DOWNEY: I'm well aware, your honor.

WHITE: And knowing that, you wish to plead guilty?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No contest, your honor.

WHITE: No contest?

DOWNEY: Yes, please.

WHITE: All right. I'll accept the plea.

Is there anything further before we proceed to sentencing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe so.

WHITE: Waive arraignment for judgments?


WHITE: Is there any legal cause why sentence should not now be pronounced?


WHITE: All right, in case number INF036386, the defendant Robert Downey Jr., being deemed eligible for a probation pursuant to section 1210.1 of the penal code, as to the counts described, formal probation will be granted for a period of three years in the following terms and conditions: You are to obey all laws and ordinances; you are to participate in and complete a substance abuse program, pursuant to 1210.1 of the penal code; you are to enroll in and complete a substance abuse program immediately and provide proof of enrollment to the probation officer; you are to provide proof of enrollment to the court by August 16, in Department 3S, appearances waived if proof is shown at the court clerk's window; you are to attend Narcotics Anonymous (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) as directed by the probation officer of the court; you are not to associate with any unrelated person known to be a possessor, user or trafficker of controlled circumstances, nor any other unrelated person on probation or parole, except in the course of the program; you are not to possess, use, or have in your control any controlled substances or any drug-related paraphernalia unless medically prescribed; any prescribed usage is to be immediately reported to the probation officer; you are to submit to the immediate search of your person, automobile, residence, and surrounding premises -- garage, storage areas -- and personal property or leased property, with or without reasonable cause by the probation officer or any law enforcement officer; you are to submit to any chemical tests of your blood, breath, or urine, or any reasonable physical test upon the request of the probation or any law enforcement officer, for the detection of controlled substances; you are to pay the cost of court-ordered testing through and as directed by the probation officer -- that is critical, that you submit to those tests and that you pay for the testing; you are to report to the probation officer immediately or upon release from custody, for initial instructions and you are to abide by all reasonable directives of that officer; you are to report any law enforcement contacts to the probation officer within 48 hours; you are to seek and maintain gainful employment and/or attend a full-time school or vocational program; you will reside at a residence approved by the probation officer and not move without the prior consent of the probation officer; you are to participate and complete at your expense any counseling, rehabilitation, or treatment program deemed appropriate by the probation officer and authorize release of information relevant to progress; you are not to own, possess, or have under your control or immediate access firearms or deadly weapons, or any weapon-related paraphernalia or incendiary device; you are to pay $4,950 for the cost of the substance abuse program to the court as directed by financial services; this is a level-three residential, long-term program; you are to pay $135, which includes a fine, fee, and penalty assessment, pursuant to 11372.5 of the health and safety code, as directed by the financial services division; you are to pay up total 135 for a fine, fee, and penalty assessment pursuant to 11372.7 of the health and safety code, as directed by financial services.

And this is a three-year grant of formal probation under those terms and conditions. Do you understand all of those terms and conditions, Mr. Downey?

DOWNEY: Yes, I do, your honor.

WHITE: And you accept all of those?


WHITE: An additional term will be that you pay the cost of probation supervision, pursuant to 1203.1 of the penal code, in the amount of $250. If the level of probation supervision is modified, these cost may be increased to amount not to exceed $1,908. You are to pay a $110 fee to the court as a booking fee, pursuant to 29550 of the government code. You are to pay a restitution fine of $200 through the clerk of the court, pursuant to 1202.4 (b) of the penal code, as directed by financial services.

And the substance abuse program progress hearing will be set for November 15, 2001, at 1:30, in department 1B. You'll be ordered to appear at that hearing, and probation is to submit a progress report.

Mr. Downey, I want to tell you this is not a gift of the court. This is going to be hard work. It can provide a tremendous benefit to you and to the public as well. But you're going to have to work at it. If you choose not to work at it, if you choose to allow yourself to fail on this program, then the consequences will be severe to you, and possibly to the public as well. So I would urge you to put your utmost effort into this program and to complete it and to fulfill all of your obligations. All right?

DOWNEY: Thank you for your consideration, your honor.

WHITE: All right. Good luck to you.

CAPONE: Your honor, there are a few more things. He also needs to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) register for 11590. The court can't mention that.

WHITE: Say that one more time.

CAPONE: He also needs to register for health and safety code 11590. That's term 20.

WHITE: Yes, you're to register immediately, and thereafter as required, with local law enforcement agencies as to your place of residence pursuant to health and safety code section 11590, and that is to be done immediately. Do you understand that term and condition?

DOWNEY: I'm aware of that, your honor, yes.

WHITE: And you accept that?


CAPONE: And your honor, there's no factual basis taken for the plea.

WHITE: Counsel, will you stipulate that a factual basis exists for the taking of this plea?



WHITE: Thank you.

CAPONE: Thank you.

WHITE: Good luck to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, your honor.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: : With words of good luck, the plea agreement is done and completed for Robert Downey Jr. In the agreement, he pleads no contest relating to an incident that took place last November in Palm Springs. In exchange for that, he will receive three years probation, one year in rehab., and 120 days from now, on November 15, he must appear in court once again.

The consequences are very severe. If he does not stay clean and does not abide by all the rules of probation, Robert Downey Jr. could face as much as four years in state prison.

HARRIS: Speaking of words, the judge also said this is not a gift.

Let's bring in our Roger Cossack, who has been standing by and listening in Washington.

Roger, what do you make of what we just witnessed?

ROGER COSSACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When is a gift not a gift? This is what the law is under Proposition 36. I think that it is clear that the people of the state of California have made up their mind that, at least in nonviolent kinds of drug abuse cases, they would much rather have the defendants spend some time in a rehab. program, rather than put them in prison, which we've talked about clogs the prisons as well as clogs the courts. But as you have pointed out, under Prop 36, I believe that whether it's a gift or whether it's largess by the people of the state coming to an end -- I think that if Robert Downey Jr. perhaps gets in trouble again -- and we hope he didn't -- I think the next time around he could be looking at some time in the state penitentiary.

It doesn't mean that he has to go to the state penitentiary, but it does mean that he certainly would be more eligible than he is under Proposition 36 today.

KAGAN: And on that thought, Roger, that the judge was saying this is not a gift, it's a lot of hard work, Robert Downey is not necessarily a free man; he is under strict supervision and will be so for some time. And from the words of the judge, it sounds like he even has to pay for the cost of that supervision.

That's right, and he's going to be in a live-in, residential rehabilitation program. This one happens to be in a very nice area, but nevertheless, it is a rehabilitation program, and he will be watched and monitored. He is not free to come and go. As we have indicated, he is wearing a monitor -- I think on his ankle -- which traces his whereabouts.

I don't think anybody should ever get the idea that this is just a little recreation time for Robert Downey. This is not. Robert Downey is an addict, and he will have to come to grips with his addiction. It is a very, very difficult thing to do. And he will have to come to grips with this if he wants to go ahead and continue in his career and what he, obviously, is very, very good at, which is performing.

HARRIS: Let's bring in Paul Vercammen, who's been outside, to give us a wrapup of the whole day -- Paul.

VERCAMMEN: Well, as you heard, Leon, one of the things that the judge said, as he was talking about what would happen down the road for Robert Downey Jr., and as part of rehabilitation, as we've heard so many times, he wants Robert Downey Jr to begin to reenter the work force. It's something that is said to everyone else who is inside the court. And basically, in Robert Downey Jr.'s case, I guess the green light is there down the road for him to begin acting or they also alluded to a vocational school...

KAGAN: Paul, stand by one second. Judge White is speaking again. Let's just listen in to what he had to say.


WHITE: ... as a misdemeanor. What is now your plea?


DOWNEY: No contest, your honor.

WHITE: To the allegation of a prior offense pursuant to 667.5 (b), do you admit or deny that prior offense?

DOWNEY: I admit, your honor.

WHITE: Thank you. And all of the prior orders of the court will remain in full force and effect. Counsel, do you agree that that is appropriate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, your honor.

WHITE: And you stipulate to that?



WHITE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, your honor.

KAGAN: Sounds like it was just some housekeeping items that the judge and the attorneys needed to take care of.

Paul, we interrupted your thought there.

Well, it's interesting, as we watch Robert Downey Jr. leave the courtroom, in the talk of his rehabilitation process, including going back to work, and then they alluded to a vocational program also being a part of it. Well, Robert Downey Jr. is not going to enroll in the north Hollywood fledgling actors program. He has a career, and he has a job, and we'll just have to wait and see when all parties involved -- especially the state department of corrections and the people at the rehabilitation center -- feel that he is ready again to take on a job in Hollywood. As we alluded to earlier, they say that the offers are still pouring in.

I'm going to step aside and see if we can't see Robert leave the courtroom. KAGAN: Do we expect him to speak, Paul?

VERCAMMEN: We do not expect him to speak. His publicist told me he will not talk and they expect him to be whisked away. And this story is being covered by a lot of people.

KAGAN: A rough crowd.

HARRIS: Speaking of projects, I can't help but think he has to be thinking of an autobiographical one, at some point to come. That's something he can think about while he's got this time on his hands.

KAGAN: More stories to tell and more to talk about. Our thanks to Paul Vercammen and Roger Cossack for helping us with our coverage of the story.



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