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Robert Downey Jr. to Enter Plea Agreement on Drug Charges

Aired July 16, 2001 - 11:31   ET


ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Downey entered a plea of no contest to the charges.

Joining us are former investigator Howard Miller, criminal defense attorney Kenny Robinson and criminal defense attorney Jim Cole. So I think do end up with the first question after all. Let's talk a little bit about...

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: Can I ask the first question?

COSSACK: Absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you're a California lawyer.

COSSACK: All right.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you get probation?

COSSACK: Well, you know, Greta, here's what happened. Under Prop 36, which the California electorate passed last November, they made a policy change, if you will, and what they want to do with nonviolent drug offenders. And what they basically decided to do was, they say, "Look, this is a social problem, perhaps a medical problem but it may not be, at least initially, a criminal problem. And the courts like every other state in this country are getting backed up with drug arrests and prisons and sending these drug violators...

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's not because he's an actor, basically?


VAN SUSTEREN: He's getting no special treatment?

COSSACK: No, under the law, under Prop 36, if one could argue that perhaps he got the benefit of the doubt because this law wasn't supposed to go into effect until July, and his crime was committed prior to that time. But you know, I...

VAN SUSTEREN: Wait a second. That way nobody ever get -- I mean, wait a second. That's actually not insignificant. I mean, I'm not saying that he should get prison...


VAN SUSTEREN: ...but the fact that it doesn't go into effect until July and he committed the crime at the time in November...

COSSACK: Yes, but I don't think it's just him that got the benefit of the doubts. I think prosecutors up and down the state then began treating these cases as if Prop 36 was in effect. And the reason is because this is what I told you. From a policy change, it's clear. It was passed overwhelmingly. The people of the state of California want their nonviolent drug offenses treated like this. And why should a prosecutor, you know, buck the crowd?

So in many ways, you know, he got a lucky break because they passed the law, but he's getting treated like everybody else.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, he pled no contest.


VAN SUSTEREN: Not guilty.


VAN SUSTEREN: Why does he get no contest and not a guilty plea? Why didn't the prosecutor force him into that?

COSSACK: OK, in California plea of no contest, nolo contendere, is treated as a guilty plea. In other words, if he went out and got arrested again, it would be a prior conviction.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is here, too, Roger, in many ways. But the problem is: You don't get it for armed robbery. You don't get it for murder. Why do get it for this?

COSSACK: In this case, remember, it was a drug charge in which it was -- he was not going to go to prison. It was part of a plea package. He entered a plea of nolo contendere. The only benefits he gets would be if somebody was going to sue him, they couldn't use a plea of guilty as a way of establishing his liability, but in effect in the criminal law, it is treated as guilty plea.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, no one's going to sue him civilly on this and I don't think -- I can't imagine the case. Let me ask Kenny. Kenny, you've been around the block a long time and doing drug cases. What do you make of this?

KENNY ROBINSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, proposition 36 gives him that benefit like everybody else, he should have gotten it. As far as a no contest plea, I don't know of anybody in this three state area who's gotten one of those since Spiro Agnew did in 1970. That was the last one I know of.

COSSACK: Well, what does it really help you, Kenny. It doesn't help you. It gives your lawyer something to talk about. Look, I got you a no contest plea, instead of...

ROBINSON: Sounds nicer than a guilty, but you know, I'm glad he got a break. The guy's a tragic situation.

COSSACK: Well, that's the bottom line.

ROBINSON: And he'll go away for a long time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, but I'm glad he got a break, too, but the problem is, you know, what about all the guys who don't? I mean, come on, Kenny, there are a lot of guys out there who aren't famous actors.

COSSACK: I want to stand up for California. I would say since proposition 36, by and large, and I can't -- look, I can't point to every case, but I can tell you that people are being treated like he's being treated.

VAN SUSTEREN: My bet, Roger, I don't know this last 10 people who had the same drug charge in that courtroom didn't get no contest.

COSSACK: You know, Greta, I bet you're wrong. No contest is pretty serious.

VAN SUSTEREN: Really? All right.

COSSACK: pretty -- is something that's fairly easily accomplished in California, particularly in cases where people are going to jail or prison. They'll let them plead not -- or let them plead no contest, take the plea, everybody congratulates him, that they didn't have to plead guilty, and ship him off. So it's just one of those things...

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not saying it's a bad idea. I'm just curious whether everyone gets it. I certainly think everyone should get what he gets.

COSSACK: All right.

ROBINSON: You know, next time he's going to go away.

COSSACK: Yes, next time...

ROBINSON: I mean, no relief next time. And that really would be a tragedy, to show how bad his problem is.

COSSACK: Yes, there used to be a judge in California. I practiced, used to say to my clients, "Next time there isn't going to be next time." And I think that's pretty much what here is. Let's take a break.

When we come back , the case of Chandra Levy, why the D.C. police are searching a Washington park. Don't go away.



SUSAN LEVY: I want my daughter home, and I want her alive, and I want to truth to come out.

CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. CHIEF OF POLICE: We don't what happened to Chandra Levy. We've got to explore all possibilities.

ABBE LOWELL, CONDIT'S ATTORNEY: Congressman Condit has never been and is not now a suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they're going to be looking for is any evidence of an attempt to clean up a potential scene there.

BILLY MARTIN: The Levy family is extremely upset with Congressman Condit.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: ...withheld information from the police.

LOWELL: Try to see if there's somebody else there who might have some information.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that a family's 24-year-old daughter is missing and has not been heard from for 2 1/2 months.


VAN SUSTEREN: Washington police are bringing in 50 police recruits to help comb areas around the apartment of Chandra Levy. They're focusing on 2,800 acres in Rock Creek Park, according to "The Washington Post," one of the Web sites browsed by the missing intern before her disappearance included information about the Klingle mansion, which is located in the park.

COSSACK: And the Levy case was profiled Saturday night on "America's Most Wanted," leading to more than 160 tips. Now one caller reported seeing a person in a van outside Levy's apartment building the day she disappeared, allegedly attempting to lure women.

VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us from the site of the police search in Rock Creek Park is CNN producer, Brad Right.

Brad, what's going on right now with the search in the park?

BRAD WRIGHT, CNN PRODUCER: Well, right now, Greta, they have broken for lunch. They expect to be back on the job by 1:00, perhaps a little bit after. And they intend to go from this area, which is about three quarters of a mile or a half a mile north of the zoo for people who might know where that is. And they are heading toward -- they will be heading toward the zoo, through a wooded area, much like this one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Brad, was -- I mean, why Klingle mansion area? I mean, it's just because it showed up on her computer, or is she's a jogger because it's a popular jogging route? I mean, why this search?

WRIGHT: Well, it could be because of jogging. There are nice paths here. We've seen joggers here all morning and into the afternoon. Although we also heard that possibly she had friend or acquaintance that she wanted to visit who lives in a small neighborhood near here. COSSACK: Brad, how long have they been searching and how long will they continue to search? And where are they going from here? I mean, is it just the Klingle mansion or is it the grounds? What exactly are they going to do?

WRIGHT: Well, there's a large wooded area here. It's all federal park land. They started north of here about half, three quarters of a mile, tried to do a grid search, which is people lining up at arms-length and combing a swath of area. They can't really do that very well here because of the thick brush and the woods. So they had to take that very slowly.

We saw maybe 15 or 20 of them come through here, just before 11:00 this morning. And they seem to be going very thoroughly through as much as they possibly could, as they made their progress south. And once lunch is over and they resume searching, they will heading toward the National Zoo. And that's maybe half, three-quarters of a mile from here. And how far they get beyond that is anybody's guess.

It's kind of warm here in Washington today. The heat may slow them down a little bit. I noticed that many of them were really sweating and appeared to have been laboring.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jim Cole, read the tea leaves for me. Where do you think this investigation is going?

JIM COLE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it's floundering. I think they don't have a clue what has happened to her. And they're doing anything they can. The question I've got is, why not search abandoned apartments and obvious parks and places like that months ago? I think that whatever leads they have are proving to be just blank dead ends.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what is so curious to me is, and Kenny you may have had the same experience, the Rock Creek Park, when I practiced criminal defense work, I had two murder cases where they found bodies in the park. It's not unusual. And don't you think that this is a little bit late, since it is sort of in the direction -- I mean, it's not far from her apartment.

ROBINSON: Everything is late. I mean, like I say, the search and asking the congressman early on did he have a sexual relationship with her? Wait until the third time to let him admit all that. I don't know what they've been doing.

I think the police are working very good job right now, but I think they waited too late. And some day, they're going to find a body somewhere, and it'll be interesting what the DNA shows if she's really pregnant and is the congressman the father. If so, who is the father? And maybe then, they'll be able to solve the riddle. But until they find her, they're not going to get anywhere, I don't think.

COSSACK: Howard, in a situation like this where the police are pretty much in a situation where there's no strong clues, there's no strong leads, what do they do? I mean, is it like looking for a needle in a haystack? Do they just say, "OK, today we look Klingle mansion and..."


COSSACK: ...Rock Creek, tomorrow we go someplace else?

MILLER: Well, potentially they're covering the basics again. I'm sure that they've conducted some intermediate searches prior to this time, but it looks like now, they're going back to the basics. It's interesting the grid search was mentioned. In that hilly terrain of Rock Creek Park, grid searches are hard to manage. And we have all the types. You have spiral searches. You have crisscross. In other words, you go down one end and you come back down this way.

And chain to custody, if one of those officers finds something, it requires strict management on a crime scene like that in that type of search, in that type of hilly terrain.

COSSACK: And he's kind of difficult to manage, you're saying?

MILLER: Absolutely. And also, we have animals. Animals move bodies. Animals interfere with the crime scene. So if we find out something. And of course, we all hope, we hold out hope for the life that Ms. Levy is alive. But if not, if we find her, nature has had time...

VAN SUSTEREN: If they're going to find her in Rock Creek Park, I don't think anyone's optimistic that she's going to alive. Brad, let me go back to you. I lived in Washington, D.C. a long time, lived not too far from the Klingle mansion. Never heard about it until this weekend. What is the Klingle mansion? Do you know?

WRIGHT: Yes, it's a stone building that was built in 1823 by fellow named Joshua Pierce, the horticulturist. Right now, it's used by the park service as a superintendent's office.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any hypothesis -- have you heard anything from any of the investigators as to why they think that it may have been search site on her computer, what the attraction would be to her for the Klingle mansion?

WRIGHT: Not a thing. The only thing I've heard is that possibly either Congressman Condit or Chandra Levy had an acquaintance, a friend that may have lived in a very small neighborhood that is just down the hill from here.

COSSACK: One thing that police did announce is they're not going to use the dogs, these cadaver dogs to look through landfills. And they said it was an economic reason, that they just didn't -- that it was too expensive to do that kind of thing. What does that mean?

MILLER: Well, unfortunately in a police budget, you know, there's a priority. And I'm not sure that -- I can't justify the chief's decision, but he's watching the books and he's taking care of the management of the organization. He has got a large police department, lots of cases, lots of action. On Friday and Saturday nights, the D.C. police emergency 911 lines just light up the board. And they're out breath.

When I was a police officer, it was nothing to hear the dispatcher go into, sort of an out of breath panting type of dispatch mode. So it's a busy night or a busy operation. It's not small town Mayberry.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, you've got the problem of everybody watching. Let me go to New York to George Rosen, polygraph examiner.

George, in the event that Congressman Condit does take another polygraph examination by the police, is there set of questions you think is important, number one? And number two, and I say this only hypothetically, how easy is it to beat a polygraph?

GEORGE ROSEN, POLYGRAPH EXAMINER: Well, basically you don't beat a polygraph. You can beat an examiner. It depends on how thorough the examiner is, how he words his questions, and how experienced he is.

VAN SUSTEREN: If I conduct a polygraph examination of someone, and I then pronounce either deceptive, inconclusive or truth telling, I then pass my charts to you. Are you going to come to same conclusion necessarily as I am or do you need to actually conduct the examination yourself?

ROSEN: Well, I feel I would have to conduct the examination myself because in order to take an examination the way Mr. Condit did, it's, in my opinion, a way of avoiding legitimate examination, a method to go around it. Because taking an examination under these circumstance, it's be like going before a jury, the American people, and presenting a case with only the defense showing their case, with no prosecution showing their portion of the case. And I feel it's very one-sided.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. We're going to take a quick break. Lawyering is an art, not a science. So how are the attorneys involved in this case faring so far? And what lies ahead for them on this legal battlefield? Stay with us.


According to the FBI's National Crime Information Center, there have been 428,228 reports of missing persons this year through June 30. There were 876,213 in the year 2000.



VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back to BURDEN OF PROOF. Jim Cole, how's Abbe Lowell, who's the attorney for Congressman Condit doing?

COLE: Well, he's got two things to. One is a legal problem of how he deals with it? The other is the problem. I think he probably lost a half a step on the legal problem by having Condit do the private polygraph. He's lost... VAN SUSTEREN: He had to do it. I mean, you have to take a client. You've got to do that dry run and do that...

COSSACK: Yes, but you don't have the analysis.

VAN SUSTEREN: He put it in the drawer.

COLE: But he has lost the ability to say I don't believe in polygraphs. And they're no good. And they don't work, which is in fact, the truth.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I agree. That's important.

COLE: Yes. He has the lost the ability to make that argument to the public. And it was starting to gain some steam.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if you were an Abbe Lowell's shoes, you've got the press clamoring for you, you've got the Levy family, you've got Billy Martin out there saying and you've got the police saying, "we want a polygraph." What do you do?

COLE: You sit there and you say, "Ask him all the questions you want to ask him, he will give you all the interviews you want, but polygraph is just modern day witchcraft.

VAN SUSTEREN: But if it's modern day witchcraft, why have we already done it then is my question.

COLE: Well, that's the problem. He shouldn't have done it. He's lost the ability to say it's modern day witchcraft and get away from it. In a polygraph test, the real value is the interview that's done before the test and the interview that's done after the test without a lawyer present.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it really witchcraft, Kenny?

ROBINSON: Well, yes, I mean, I've done that on cases with no publicity before, have my target do a polygraph and then leak it out to The Washington Post. It's all nonsense. Abbe's already said in his press conference last week that -- all said, there'd be no more polygraph. This guy teaches the FBI guys how to do the polygraph.

He was all a P.R. move. I mean, it's just a phony polygraph and he's not going to take any more polygraphs no matter what. I'll guarantee you. He's already said he's taking one. I'm not telling the questions. He won't take another polygraph. And he probably wouldn't pass one.

COSSACK: Well, Howard -- what he said was, he said, "Look, you know, my guy passed polygraph. And he answered the three most important questions. Did you do it, did you do it, did you do it? And it all came back no, and they said he was telling the truth. Is that a complete polygraph? I mean, does he need anymore than that?

MILLER: Well, you've got to understand, the police are the sole repository of the information. They're conducting the investigation. They've interviewed hundreds of witnesses. They have questions that they want to ask.


COSSACK: The bottom line is....

VAN SUSTEREN: ...central question...

COSSACK: Yes, isn't that the...

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know anything about the disappearance or the killer?

MILLER: In fairness to this test, I heard the questions. I agreed with those questions, but like I said, there's a lot of gold in the pretest interview. And there's a lot of gold in the post test.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like what?

COSSACK: I mean, what more did you need to know than that?

MILLER: Well, they may want to verify the time issue. When was the last time you actually saw Ms. Levy.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, suppose he lied about that. Suppose he said he saw her at 7:00 and he saw her at 9:00. He's a flat-out liar about that, but he's flat-out truthful that he has nothing to do with her disappearance, isn't that --

MILLER: Well, there are so many variables in the test system that you've got to start with good pretest and have a good post test. We have yet to see the charts on the tests given to congressman. The -- Mr. Lowell promised to have these charts made available to police as of 12:00 noon yesterday. Police haven't received them yet.

COSSACK: But the gentleman that gave the test is a very renowned, well-known lie detector gentleman.

MILLER: That's right.

COSSACK: Doesn't he have any -- isn't there any built-in ethics protection, if you will?

MILLER: Well, he's referred -- I think all contacts made with him have been referred to the attorney. This is attorney-client privilege issue and he's an agent of the attorney, and he's bound by that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jim, how is Billy Martin doing, the lawyer for the Levy family? I mean, he's sort of a P.R. spokesman?

COLE: He is very much so a P.R. spokesman. And he has put this story on the front page when it wasn't necessarily on the front page. And he has applied the pressure really that's really made the police go back and say what is it that we've missed and what is it that we're doing? And I think he's done a very good job of really raising the heat underneath the police and getting them to do a better job. VAN SUSTEREN: Kenny, you know Billy like I do. We've tried cases. He was a federal prosecutor here in a lot of forms.

ROBINSON: He's doing a great job, but on the other side, it's not really Abbe's fault. He's got a congressman. If you've had congressman, they don't listen to anything you tell him. He had a staff representing that they were friends. And he had no intimate relationship.

VAN SUSTEREN: You've had a congressman, haven't you?

ROBINSON: We lost that one with -- very quickly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who did you represent?

ROBINSON: Jenrette. And you couldn't tell him anything to do. I mean, his wife, you couldn't tell her what her to do. And I guarantee you that Abbe's tried to tell Condit what to say and do. He won't listen to them. I don't know who's responsible for the false affidavit to the airline stewardess. I'm sure it wasn't Abbe. I hope it wasn't Abbe, but that was a...

VAN SUSTEREN: That was the lawyer out in California.

ROBINSON: ...blundering amateur move. And the staff going on for weeks saying that they never had a relationship, allowing that lie to continue when the congressman would later come forward is preposterous. And it makes it look like the congressman would do anything to cover up to protect his political career. Interesting question if she shows up dead and she's pregnant, DNA by his baby, did he have a motive to whack her? I don't know.

COSSACK: Well, right, but that hasn't happened yet.

ROBINSON: You've got to look at it, you know?

COSSACK: Well, you have to look at it, but it hasn't happened yet. I mean, Jim Cole, all you can go by, all of you gentlemen, you know lawyers, all you can go by is what your client tells you, right?

VAN SUSTEREN: If you were lying, wait a second, Roger. We all jump you on that one.

COSSACK: No, wait, wait, wait.

ROBINSON: You know that that's usually not the entire story.

COSSACK: Well, wait a minute.

ROBINSON: And you plan for the worst.

COSSACK: Well, you plan for the worst, but you can't go out there and say, "Listen, if the congressman says look, I had nothing to do with this, you can't say, tell you the truth I think you did have something to do with... VAN SUSTEREN: Roger, wait a second. Get away from the hypothetical of this one. We all know is that every client lies to a lawyer. I mean, if you believe everything...

COSSACK: Well, not my clients.

VAN SUSTEREN: Right, you're the only guy in this entire country.

COSSACK: Not my clients. Truth was the way we communicated.

ROBINSON: Send them over.

VAN SUSTEREN: Send them over. I mean, you're the only one with truth telling clients. I mean, they all lie a little bit, you know.

COSSACK: Gee, you guys are so cynical.

ROBINSON: That fits into the checks in the mail scenario. You know, that attitude that well when I was -- as an investigator I've been sent over to D.C. jail to interview someone. And the attorney comes back and he says, "Well how did you find all that out?" And I said, "Well, he told me." And it's almost like when you start some kind of interview with these inmates or defendants, they come across with the information.

VAN SUSTEREN: No, when I need a lawyer, I'm going to you.

COSSACK: All right. We got to go. That's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests. Thank you for watching.

VAN SUSTEREN: Join us again tomorrow for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to turn to another story that we've been following. And that of the man in Kentucky that's been living with an artificial heart for two weeks.

And Rhonda Rowland, our medical correspondent, is here to tell us more about it.

And we're going to have a news conference that's beginning right now at the University of Louisville. Let's here from the doctors first and then we'll chat with you, Rhonda.


DR. ROBERT DOWLING, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE: We put a clamp on the aorta as we cut out the heart, otherwise there would be -- the blood would be coming through that big blood vessel. And then we excised the lower part of the heart. We excised the ventricles. OK?

And once we have the ventricles removed, we have to leave -- one of the main questions I had is do you leave some of the heart. Well, we have to leave some of the heart to have something to attach the AbioCor to. So once we removed the ventricles, we sew these cuffs on to where the ventricles and the atrium come together. So we remove the ventricles. We leave the right and left atrium.

We sew one of these to the left atrium. We make sure that it's not leaking. We sew one to the right atrium. We make sure it's not leaking. And then we take these different types of graphs. We sew one to the pulmonary artery and one to the aorta. And as we're doing that, we have to kind of tailor these for each person's different anatomy.

And there was a lot of discussion and so forth during the surgery about how long to make this, how long to make that one with how to trim those different cuffs. And that's different for each animal we did in the research lab. And of course, it'll be different for each human.

So once we have those cuffs sewn into the atrium, and the outflow graphs sewn into the aorta and pulmonary artery, just like in this picture here, we take the AbioCor and we hook it up. And once these are all sewn in, these are called quick connects because they're exactly that. They just snap on there, takes about that long.

OK? And we do that four times. Before we do that, we get a lot of the air out of the heart. Once those quick connects are done, we get the remaining air out of the heart, which in this patient was very straightforward. This took a few minutes. And once we have that done, we just go over to the function of the heart and wean the patient from the heart lung machine. And that took all of about two or three minutes, just like it did in the laboratory. I should have probably started by saying before we got -- put the heart in, we put the battery and the controller in. Just because I've had a lot of -- we've all had a lot of questions about the -- with the battery and controller look like. They're about this big. OK?

And they go underneath the muscle of the belly, kind of up underneath the rib cage. So they're smaller than the first generation pacemakers. They're smaller than a lot of other things we plant in the abdominal wall. So size wise, from our point of view, these are small and the fit for these. There's absolutely no problem. Nor do we anticipate there being a problem with those in other patients.

And then the other thing that was implanted, that perhaps at least I got more question on than anything else, is this tech coil. This goes underneath the skin. Everything I've shown you is inside. Even this goes underneath the skin. OK? This receives energy across the skin. So for brief periods of time, the heart can be running on the internal battery. OK? This can be charged up and can power the heart for brief periods of time. The rest of the time, this is sitting under the skin. There is a donut like counterpart to this, that sits on top of the skin and puts energy across the skin.

So again, I guess the point I wanted to reiterate, that everything is totally implantable, even the thing that receives the energy and sends it to the heart.

Now the tech coil, the one that sits on top of the skin, can be plugged into the wall or it can be plugged into a battery. That's why if you're just sitting at home watching the game, you're plugged into the wall. At half-time you want to get a sandwich, you unhook, you get your sandwich. You're on battery power. And then once you sit back to watch the second half, you plug it back in again. OK? So that's the procedure.

Now everyone who has heart surgery, regardless of whether it's bypass surgery, a total artificial heart, or even -- any heart surgery, has drainage tubes put in. And of course, our patient was no exception. So everyone has drainage tubes or unrelated to the artificial heart itself. They're related to just the fact that he had heart surgery itself. Those drainage tubes are going to come out. And eventually, when they're all out, they'll be nothing that's crossing the skin. And everything will be totally internal with energy, again, be transferred across the skin.

OK. I think I probably went along enough on that.

DR. LAMAN GRAY, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE: We'll try to give you some update on how the patient's done then over the past two weeks. And you sort of have to forgive me if my time's maybe off a little bit because we didn't really prepare an absolute time schedule.

But basically, the first thing, is he has done better than what either Rob or I would ever expect it, considering his condition before -- when started. Now he's extremely sick. He has been. And he's going to be sick for a very, very long time. And I guess I just will continue to stress this, throughout what we're going to say. Because when you realize -- when he came into to see us, he was basically as far in stage heart disease that anybody could be.

To give some examples, when he initially came in, he was really only able to walk maybe 10, 15 feet without having a wheelchair or assistance. The reason he could only walk that far is his heart was so worn out that it -- there wasn't enough energy that it could generate him into getting -- so he could do more. And he got too fatigued and tired.

To put it sort of in perspective, which I think most people understand, his normal weight before he got sick was probably around 200 pounds. And because of the illness, his weight had dropped down to 140 pounds or something in that neighborhood. Otherwise, he was extremely wasted and his muscles are very weak.

We use a medical term: cachectic. It just means weakness, wasting of the muscles. So he doesn't have the energy to function normally like you or I. Now, this -- when he becomes, as he regains calories and things, this will return to normal. This is not a permanent problem. But by telling you this, it's going to explain some of the problems we've experienced over the last two weeks.

Now initially, he was on a ventilator. And the ventilator came off about three days after he was -- after surgery. And he did well for about 24 hours, became weak and we had put the ventilator back on. He very rapidly recovered and about two days later, the ventilator was taken off.

And we probably took it off a little prematurely because we're enthusiastic and things were going very well. And he was able to sit up in a chair and do things like this. And so we took it out. And then again, about 24, 48 hours later, he became weak again and fatigued. And we had to put him back on the ventilator.

Now the primary reason he had to go back on the ventilator is because of his muscle weakness. OK? And he just didn't have the energy to be able to breathe. Breathing takes maybe 20 percent of your -- of the energy of the body. It's fairly intensive.

So we have had that problem that he's just not strong enough at this point in time to be able to really breathe on his own. Now some other things that are very, very encouraging and show very good, when he initially came in the hospital for his kidney function test, he had what we call a creatinine, which is a function of the kidneys. And it was running around three. And since the device has been put in, initially it went up to -- a small amount, to maybe 3.6, I think is what it was.

And -- but the really nice thing is that the last three or four days, his creatinine has come down. It was 2.2 today, which is much lower than 3. It's a very -- it's in logarithmic scale. And his -- the lowest creatinine that he's had really for the past couple years is 1.9 because of this chronic congestive heart failure. So his kidneys have recovered much better than when he initially came to see us. And are back to almost his baseline. Where it was maybe even six months or a year ago. So we're very encouraged with that. His liver function has continued to function normally.

Talk about, you know, his lungs a little bit. Well, his lungs, he's had some edema in the lungs. And the reason for that primarily is what we're dealing with now is what's called interstitial edema. And this is due to basically his malnutrition again..

I don't want too technical in it, but he has a low protein and low albumen, which then the pressure' in the vascular space just gets sort of mixed up a little bit. He gets the fluids sort of in the wrong space. And again, this is because of general malnutrition.

DOWLING: Just another positive things is his -- as Dr. Gray said, his creatinine were very excited. And we've had a very minimal bump after the surgery. And it's returned to his baseline value. And his liver function test also looked excellent.

ALLEN: All right, doctors going over again how this patient is progressing, who received an artificial heart two weeks ago. And Rhonda Rowland's here to tell us more about -- expand on what they're saying -- how positive is it that his kidneys are coming back and?

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Very positive. And again, the doctors are saying that the patient's doing better than they ever expected. And it's very noteworthy that they've been seeing improvements in his kidney function, his liver function is good, and it's important because someone with very advanced heart disease has an overall system shut down. It affects all of their organs.

So the fact that they're seeing improvements means that this new artificial heart is having some benefit. And they did mention that they got, perhaps a little prematurely excited, took him out off the ventilator, had to put him back on again. There's no evidence.

We haven't heard that he's walking around yet, but we've heard that he has been able to sit up, enjoy a movie with his wife. So again, sort of doctors are very encouraged at this point. They have just broken a two week media silence. And Natalie, they said they were going to do that at the beginning and the reasons they did not want to hype this new device too much.

And also, they didn't feel it was necessary to give a day by day update, because again, somebody with a very serious heart condition. They can have a step back, a few steps forward. But again, overall, after two weeks, this man appears to be doing well. And this is somebody who was told that they only had a 20 percent chance of living to the end of this month without the device.

ALLEN: All right. We'll continue to follow it. It's good news for those doctors who prepared what, three years?

ROWLAND: Yes. In fact, the person who developed it has been working on it for 30 years. ALLEN: Amazing.

ROWLAND: So a lot of time has gone.

ALLEN: All right.



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The search for missing intern Chandra Levy is widening today, as police beef up their forces and expand their search to a 2,800 acre park about one block from the young woman's Washington apartment. On another front in the investigation, authorities are checking out some new tips.

CNN national correspondent, Bob Franken, joins us now live from Washington with an update -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, it's just about 11 weeks now since Chandra Levy was last accounted for. And the police are redoubling their efforts, literally redoubling their efforts in their search to see if they can find the former 24- year-old Washington intern.

They've gone now to the local police academy. And they've taken some of the recruits, about 50 of them, and they're combing an area where they've looked before. It's the Rock Creek Park section of Washington.

They had gone there much earlier in the investigation. They have subsequently found that on May 1, there was a message. There was indication, rather, on Chandra Levy's computer in her apartment that she was interested in the Rock Creek Park area. This is an area also where a lot of joggers go and do their workouts. Chandra Levy was considered quite a physical fitness buff. Police say that they have been in this area at one time before at an area called the Klingle mansion nearby. They did not find signs of a body, but they're looking much more closely this time.

They are, in fact, looking not just for signs of a body, but signs of a struggle of some sort, that perhaps somebody was dragged away. This, of course, is the investigation that has captured the imagination of the world. It is, of course, fueled by the speculation and the involvement of Congressman Gary Condit in the life of Chandra Levy.

Condit admitted to investigators a little over a week ago, according to sources, that he was in fact involved in a romantic relationship with Chandra Levy. As for this search here, the police say that they're simply retracing their steps.


CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, there are a couple of locations here in the local area that she went to, but again, we've gone through those areas. We're in the process now of going through them again to see whether or not there's anything that we may have overlooked the first time.

You know Washington, D.C., there are a lot of pretty remote areas, a lot of parkland here in the District. So we've got the dogs out, once again, to go through some more of the areas of our city.


FRANKEN: And another of those areas is the Fort Dupont area. That is in the southwestern section of this particular area. And police were there with their searchers out there, too. They're going to be combing the area, we're told, in sectors, trying to find out if they can find anything that will be a clue to the disappearance of the Chandra Levy. They have at their ready, if necessary, so-called cadaver dogs. They're exactly what they sound like. And of course, that leaves the impression that they stronger and more strongly believe that foul play was involved -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Have they announced before that they had searched these parks?

FRANKEN: Well, we had been told sometimes not through public announcement, but we'd been told by sources that they searched some areas that were considered quite obvious. For instance, Rock Creek Park.

The fact that she took her keys was an indication that perhaps she went out for a jog. She lived close to Rock Creek Park. It is an area that cyclists and bicycle riders and joggers use quite often. So it was quite an obvious area. And the police will respond when you ask them now, they'll say, "Well, of course, we checked that area out.

ALLEN: All right. And anymore developments in the case as far as today?

FRANKEN: OK, we need to go back now, Natalie. We need to show you a live picture from Rock Creek Park. I'm being told that they have a found a little bit of evidence now that might be something. You can see that there's a police tape that has been put up. We're told that they have found some bone or something like that. We, of course, are very preliminarily getting involved in that.

Unquestionably, they'll be calling the cadaver dogs in. It's right next to the mansion, Klingle mansion, which is what came up on Chandra Levy's Web site on that day when she was - on her computer, rather, on that day when she was last accounted for in her apartment, May 1. She had spend several hours on the computer, looking to make travel plans or that kind of thing, but she also investigated a map of - that showed where the Klingle mansion was.

It is one of the gathering places for people who run. It is also a place, we're told, where lovers sometimes go. In any case though, the police began their investigation at this location today. As I say, they apparently seem to think that they have found something that they want to check. They're looking at a spot on the ground. This is a scene that would precede the dogs being brought in. I've pointed out again that there is police tape there.

Obviously, we're going to have to pay very close attention to see if they've come up with anything that would lead to the knowledge in the disappearance of Chandra Levy. Natalie?

ALLEN: How have they been carrying out this search, as far as - do they have a system of searching the park? How many officers have been involved here today?

FRANKEN: Approximately 50 cadets from the police academy. And they've literally been within arms length of each other. They've been just combing the ground visually, looking for what might be a clue. And of course, what we're seeing now might be a clue. The police make that clear, but it's important enough as you can see, that they've decided that they need to check it out further.

ALLEN: All right, Bob Franken. Thank you from Washington.

This late development here: Yellow police tape has gone up. And they're bringing in the dogs to check out something that seems mysterious to the officers. And we'll continue to follow it and keep you posted on anything.



LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: In 1987's "Less Than Zero," actor Robert Downey, Jr. played a cocaine addicted party boy. Well, now his behavior in real life has him in court this morning answering to drug charges once again. For the latest let's go down to CNN's Paul Vercammen who's standing by live in Indio, California outside the courthouse. Paul?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, momentarily they will begin here. And as we've told you all morning long, Downey is expected to enter that plea of no contest and that will basically allow him to avoid prison time and continue his rehabilitation in a Malibu treatment facility.

Daryn brought up earlier that sometimes you need a score card to try to keep up with Downey. Well, here's what happened. There was scenario where Downey's previous legal team was going to bitterly fight the charges that stem from his arrest here in Riverside County in Palm Springs over Thanksgiving weekend.

And just a recap, you may recall there was this disputed 911 call that came from an individual who said that there was someone in a room who had drugs and guns. And then there was a lot of talk from Downey's legal team at the time that there was no real probable cause that the guns had caused the authorities to go to the hotel while they otherwise would not have. And they were going to battle this thing tooth and nail.

There was also another charge out and that was later dropped and that was possession of Valium. Right now it's just the two counts, which are possession of cocaine and being under the influence under -- of a controlled substance. That's a misdemeanor. And those are the two counts that Downey's expected to plead no contest to.

And as we said earlier, the prosecutor walked into the room and she said she'd absolutely be shocked if things did not resolve themselves today. Her name, of course, is Tamara Capone. She has long said that here in Riverside County she settles about 60 percent of these drug cases. That is the trend in California. Basically the idea is they do not want a lot of non-violent drug offenders clogging up the courts, clogging up the prison system so basically they come in and they try to settle the cases.

And in trying to talk to the prosecutors including prosecutors in other counties, one thing you have to remember about Downey, he is not the type of repeat offender who winds up before a judge five times a year, 10 times a year. Of course, he has the means basically to purchase the drugs and he does get in trouble but there are repeat offenders who are found fencing stolen items, who are out basically burglarizing to try to feed their habit. And what everyone has said in this case including his own parole officer is he's not a threat to anybody but himself. He is not a guy who has been arrested multiple times for driving under the influence of a control substance -- that sort of thing.

So that is why the mood here seems to be that basically they need to get this guy into the rehabilitation facility, which they have done -- the state's Department of Corrections has done -- and keep him there for a good long time.

And speculation as to when Downey might be able to return to work as an actor in a movie or a film, well, they say that is still a long time off and he needs to continue to be very serious about his rehabilitation process.

Also his parole agent said that he did something unique. Downey volunteered to wear an ankle brace, an electronic monitoring device. This was Downey's idea. He thought it would just help him in case he was ever tempted again.

So basically we'll just wait here for the beginning of these proceedings and for Robert Downey, Jr. to answer that no contest plea. Leon, Daryn?

HARRIS: All right, thanks a lot. Paul Vercammen reporting live this morning from Indio, California.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Very good. And we'll have Paul stand by to wait for those proceedings to start. And while we do let's bring in our legal analyst Roger Cossack who is standing by in Washington. Roger, good morning.


KAGAN: Let's start with the basics here with our legal lesson. As Paul was reporting we expect Robert Downey, Jr. to plead no contest. What does that mean?

COSSACK: Well, no contest is a way of saying, "Look, I didn't do it. And -- but I'm not saying I did do it. I'm just entering a plea of no contest, which means I choose not to fight the charges." In criminal law a plea of no contest is considered like a guilty plea. It usually means if there's a civil lawsuit you can't use the plea against you in a civil lawsuit but it's like -- I think what lawyers call it is it's a way of doing a slow plea. That is, "I'm not saying I did it, I'm not saying I didn't, I'm just saying I choose not to fight it." Which, in effect, is different but the same as a guilty plea.

KAGAN: And then as a former prosecutor what would that encourage you to give up in terms of a plea bargain?

COSSACK: Well, this is a case which is pretty well set out. I mean, Proposition 36 was passed by the California voters in that they just made a policy decision and they said, "Look, we would much rather in a sense house these non-violent drug offenders in rehab places -- in rehab centers -- than house them in a prison. It just costs too much money, it clogs up the prison, it clogs up the courtroom system."

So when you have someone like Downey who, as Paul just pointed out, is a non-violent individual whose main problem is that he just can't stay away from drugs but is not out committing burglaries or crimes but is just an abuser of drugs, this is the kind of case that is just perfect for what the voters of California said. They said, "Look, let's just put this guy in a rehab center and keep him in a rehab center rather than put him in a prison."

KAGAN: So a lot of people might look at somebody like Robert Downey, Jr., Roger, and say, "Here he is, a rich actor, a celebrity. He's getting off so easy." But actually what you're saying is somebody like him is -- would actually be treated just like this in terms of getting steered toward rehab rather than toward the prison system under what California's trying to do right now?

COSSACK: Yes, absolutely. In fact, I would argue that probably if not for Proposition 36 they would have thrown the book at Robert Downey, Jr. You know, it's not -- he has gone to prison in the past and I think that these prison sentences would have just started mounting up with him. But because of Proposition 36, which takes this position that says, "Look, non-violent drug abusers are more of a threat to themselves than they are to society. And what the downside is is what they do to our court system and what they do to our prisons. We would much rather have them housed in a rehab center than housed in a prison."

And that is why he is getting what's going to happen to him today, which is he is going to be sentenced to a term of probation of which he has to stay in a rehab center. And as long as he doesn't commit violent crimes or -- like a burglary or a robbery or something of that nature he will -- I hope this is the last one for Robert Downey but if he continues to do it this is where he'll continue to get sent back to. KAGAN: Well, and of course, though, with the prison sentence Robert Downey, Jr. can say, "Been there, done that." He spent a fair amount of time in the state prison system in California.

COSSACK: Yes, but there's not much -- there's not much he can't say...

KAGAN: That's true.

COSSACK: ... "been there, done that," too.

KAGAN: That's true.

COSSACK: I mean -- you know, this isn't the first rehab center that he's been to also. This is a guy -- and I think that people have to understand -- this is a guy who's just an addict. And I don't mean to deem or to say "just an addict" but an addict is just a different type of person than the rest of us. That's why all those things that make so much sense just don't seem to make much sense to Robert Downey, Jr. I mean, you want to shake this guy and say, "What part of life don't you get?" But it's something that is clearly something he cannot control.

KAGAN: Roger, talk us through a little bit about what we just saw just happen. Clearly Robert Downey, Jr. is sitting there by himself now in the courtroom. All of the lawyers -- I think the prosecutor and the defense attorney got up and went into a room behind closed doors.


KAGAN: What would you suspect is happening right now?

COSSACK: Yes, those are the judge's chambers. I would suspect that is the judge's office. And what's going on back there now is a discussion about what's going to happen in the future -- make sure that everyone is in agreement.

The judge is going to say, "Now it is my understanding that there is a plea agreement in this case -- that Mr. Downey will enter a plea of no contest. In return I will follow the dictates of Proposition 36 and sentence him to a certain period of time in a rehab center. Is that what everybody understands?"

And the prosecution will say, "Yep, we're on board for that." and the defense will say, "Yes, that's where we're on board. And we plan on sending him to this rehab center." And the judge will say, "Is that what you understand," to the prosecutor. And the prosecutor will say, "Yes."

And the judge also wants to make sure that he is doing what both sides want. If one of the sides said, "No, I don't want to do that." Then there would be a discussion about what could -- what else could happen in the future.

KAGAN: So why isn't the defendant -- why isn't Downey back there with his lawyers listening to all of this?

COSSACK: Well, you know, that's a good question. Theoretically he is certainly entitled to be back there at all stages of the preceding and to listen to this. But I think this is one of those things that is better off done just between the lawyers on both sides and the judge. And I think Downey has been advised to just wait outside for a few minutes until they come back outside from visiting with the judge.

KAGAN: OK, Roger, we are getting word that we expect perhaps Chandra's Levy's father might be coming out and making a statement to the media. If, in fact, he does that and we have had warnings like this before but if, in fact, Dr. Levy does come out and make a comment you will see that live here on CNN.

Meanwhile we do continue our coverage of Robert Downey, Jr.'s hearing in Indio, California. Roger, another question about this Proposition 36. I believe -- and Paul can pipe in with this, too -- it was passed by California voters back in November. Is it considered pretty cutting edge for how to handle repeat drug offenders in terms of how other states are handling this situation across the country?

COSSACK: I would say this that it is on the front line of what -- of a policy decision that is being made by some states and eventually is going, I think, have to be forced -- many states are going to be forced to decide something somewhat similar. There is unfortunately in this country many, many people who are arrested for drug abuse, who, like Robert Downey, Jr. their main -- or their main victim is themselves. And therefore the question these states have to decide is what do we do with these people who are merely possessors -- illegal possessors and illegal abusers? Are they criminals, number one? And if they're not -- or is it a medical problem or a social problem? And if it is that, should we put them in prison or should we put them in a place where they can get treatment?

And finally, there was the fiscal aspect of this. These people were clogging prisons and clogging the court systems so that other things -- more important one could argue -- kinds of crimes -- just were getting put on the back burner or not being heard at all.

KAGAN: OK, Roger, you stand by. Paul, let's bring you in here. Talk about the timeline. As I understand it Proposition 36 would have passed in early November. And didn't the incident which brings Robert Downey, Jr. to this California courtroom today happen around Thanksgiving just a few weeks later?

VERCAMMEN: Well, this is actually not qualifying for that Proposition 36 timeline because as I understand it, it was to go into effect July 1. But all along and from the very outset the prosecutors in this county have said, "We have to follow the spirit of the law." So they are basically treating Downey under the spirit of the law.

And also I might want to reiterate, as I said to you before here in Riverside County Tamara Capone says she settles some 60 percent of these cases. So I don't think there was every a very hard line attitude here. I think this county and many counties in California have long said that they would much rather go ahead and settle --and we use that term "clogging the courts and clogging the prisons" than end up with all of these non-violent offenders in courtrooms and in prisons.

So not only does Proposition 36 further re-emphasize that, they already had similar attitudes in place and they had been settling cases under a drug calendar, so to speak, for a long time here in this county, Daryn.

KAGAN: Got it.

COSSACK: Daryn, if I could just jump in...

KAGAN: Go ahead.

COSSACK: ... a second.

KAGAN: Sure.

COSSACK: What Paul is saying -- he's absolutely right that in terms of when the law went into effect Proposition 36 probably doesn't include Robert Downey, Jr. But once the people in the State of California pass a law -- pass a resolution like Proposition 36 it's clear what the people want. And it would be out of step, therefore, for a prosecutor to say, "Well, just because this doesn't happen until July." I mean, they were talking about people like Robert Downey, Jr. when they passed this law so it's clear that he should be included. I would think it would be -- it wouldn't be illegal for the prosecutor to say, "No, we can't do it." But it certainly would be out of step with what the people voted.

KAGAN: You might say "the people have spoken." We await the judge to speak. The attorneys still behind closed doors with that judge. Our coverage of Robert Downey Jr. in that California courtroom will continue. Stay with us, we'll be back after this break.


HARRIS: Continue our coverage of Robert Downey, Jr.'s day in court. You see him there seated there alone -- by himself at the table there facing the judge. The lawyers in this case are actually in chambers with the judge discussing some matter of -- pertinent to this case we assume. And we'll get to the live coverage of that in just a moment.

But after dropping out of high school a young Robert Downey, Jr. wanted to pursue an acting career full-time. He moved back to the East Coast to live with his mother. And it's there that CNN's "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" tells the story of an inspiring actor and his quest for stardom.


SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 1983, on the set of "Firstborn," he met a striking 18-year-old girl. Her name, Sarah Jessica Parker. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FIRSTBORN")

DOWNEY: Hey, come on, Jake. An accident, Jake. An accident.


COLLINS: They had a lot in common. Besides their lines together, they were both the same age and both new to acting. A romance sparked between the young couple off the set.

MICHAEL FLEEMAN, CORRESPONDENT, "PEOPLE": They lived together for several years in New York. He was a young struggling actor, she was a young struggling actress, and he said, amazingly, you know, they were able to get along despite his problems. He was using drugs at the time. I mean, he was still part of the party scene and everything.

COLLINS: But after making just one movie, Downey made a jump to the small screen and to comedy. In 1985, he joined NBC's "Saturday Night Live," the popular comedy sketch series. He was a regular cast member for one season.


DOWNEY: Hey, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and a shotgun for my buddy here.


COLLINS: Downey returned to films the following year, taking on a dramatic role in the 1987 movie "Less Than Zero."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And you did it. You did it to yourself, and you know it.


COLLINS: He played the troubled Julian, an out-of-control addict who fights to kick his drug habit.

FINE: How much of his personal life did he bring to that character? Probably quite a bit, you know. You root for him. It's the clown who suffers, and under the smile there's a pain, and you get that from him. So he's got a vulnerability that makes you like him, that makes you root for him.

COLLINS: Off screen, Downey had developed his own serious cocaine problem. Shortly after completing the movie, he entered a rehab facility for substance abuse. In addition to his drug addiction, Downey had to deal with the on again-off again relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker. But as his personal life was in limbo, his career was coming together.


DOWNEY: Hi. My name's Jack Jericho.


COLLINS: Later that year, Downey landed his first leading role, playing a charming womanizer in "The Pickup Artist," directed by James Toback.

JAMES TOBACK, DIRECTOR: And he walked into my office at Fox on 57th Street and literally a minute after we started talking, I said, "By the way, you want to play the lead in this movie?" And he said, "Sure."

He made you like him immensely without trying.


DOWNEY: So he wasn't killed, he was maimed.


COLLINS: He received praise for his role as the manic soap-opera producer in "Soap Dish."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You do want me, don't you, David?

DOWNEY: In the weirdest way.



COLLINS: As "Soap Dish" wrapped, so did his seven-year relationship with Sara Jessica Parker. He soon fell in love again, this time with model Deborah Falconer. The two married in May 1992 and had a son, Indio, a year later.

At age 27, with stability in his personal life, Robert Downey Jr., prepared for the role that propelled him to Hollywood's A-list, "Chaplin."


DAN AKROYD, ACTOR: The guy I hired did the best comedy drunk I ever saw, but he was old. I don't pay 100 a week to juveniles.



DOWNEY: He was supported by, you know, by something beyond. It's almost like, how do you play a better person than yourself? Not better, but let's just say a -- you know, someone who is -- who walked the walk for his whole life.



RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH, DIRECTOR: We now have the opportunity of what Charlie introduced to little children...


COLLINS: Director Richard Attenborough hired Downey for the role.

ATTENBOROUGH: You had to have somebody who had this passion, this driving passion to do what he wanted to do, and you had to believe there was a mind behind the eyes. The camera, when it comes in close and it's in here, you can't deceive the camera.

COLLINS: Robert Downey Jr. was at the pinnacle of his career. He received an Academy Award nomination for best actor in "Chaplin." But away from the cheers and the cameras, he continued to be drawn to life in the fast lane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read this article where you were quoted as being this bad boy of Hollywood and party-goer and this whole -- where is this guy?

DOWNEY: Oh, he's around, you know, and he'd be happy to jump back in at any time. I would just say that, you know, how long can danger work, you know? It ain't over till it's over. I hope it's over.


HARRIS: Interesting. Now you see the live picture we have here of Robert Downey, Jr. in court still, again, as we were saying, waiting for things to get underway.

Let's go down to our Paul Vercammen who's standing outside that courtroom in Indio, California. Paul?

VERCAMMEN: Well, listening to that last report, Leon, and thinking about Downey, he might be wondering about his current state of health. And here's what his parole agent told me. He said that Downey is doing very well in his recovery process and that he's been very serious about it, that he's in a 12 step program and that he is going very slowly. Apparently someone can go through the program rather quickly to some degree but he says Downey is taking his time with each step and that he's able to focus in his current treatment facility.

Also he is being tested by the parole officers once a week and randomly tested twice a week by the facility. Has he been out and about? Yes, there have been some Downey sightings in Hollywood. He's allowed to leave for, let's say, counseling, for medical visits and he has had on several occasions a visit with that son that you alluded earlier, his son, Indio. Each time though, of course, he is basically with either his parole officer or someone from the rehabilitation facility. It's not like Downey is driving around Hollywood alone meeting people for lunch or that sort of thing.

Now the goal of rehabilitation and this comes from the state's Department of Corrections is to basically down the road integrate whoever back into society and to allow them to work. This is an interesting situation with Downey. Do you allow Robert Downey, Jr. at this point to go off and film a movie or film a TV show? They say that is not going to happen right now that he still needs to focus on his rehabilitation and going back to work is off in the distance.

But they do concede as part of his rehabilitation that they want him to work. They do want to see him on screen again. And, of course, he's a hot commodity. I mean, how many actors in the entire universe can say that they are a current Emmy nominee, which he is? He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work on "Ally McBeal" this past season. You may have seen the Emmy nominations on CNN.

Interesting note, however, he also has done something in Hollywood which is a cardinal sin. Because of his arrest in Culver City at the end of the "Ally McBeal" show he basically cost Hollywood money because they had to rewrite the show because they had to take him out of that episode -- all of that.

Will they forgive him? Well, this is a town where they seem to give people nine lives and perhaps he's maybe only on his fifth. I mean, Hollywood seems to love that whole hero takes a fall story and I then called his publicist.

Now we grant you this, this is a town where publicists can be a pack of very non-straight shooters, you might want to say. These are the masters, the unrepentant spin doctors. But Downey's publicist is a pretty level headed guy. He also represents Denzel Washington and Mel Gibson. And he told me that the offers are still pouring in for Robert Downey, Jr, that people call all the time wanting to know when and if he's going to be available -- that they that's something down the road that they will take on and that is the possibility of him returning to a television show and/or movies.

He hasn't burned that many bridges in this town ironically enough because he has this reputation of being a good guy on set. He doesn't have this reputation of, let's say, some guy that throws a fit and starts yelling at grips and starts demanding the blue M&Ms or wants to scream at other people. So we'll just have to see.

Behind me you might be wondering what the noise is about. There is a group of protesters. They're from the Libertarian Party. And basically they're calling for an end to the drug war. They basically do not think that non-violent drug offenders should be put in prison. So in a sense they are supporting Downey here.

So we just like you, Leon, are awaiting the proceedings here. And we'll see when and if they do begin as they are now possibly hammering out the final details of this plea bargain agreement that would continue Robert Downey, Jr.'s stay in a rehabilitation clinic. Leon, Daryn? HARRIS: Well, let me ask you, Paul, I mean, do we know at this particular point -- is it something the judge is going to nails down today whether or not Downey can actually take advantage of any of these offers that have been pouring into him while he is still in rehab?

VERCAMMEN: Well, right now, I mean, in talking with his parole officer, no way. I mean, he's in no shape or form to immediately jump on one of these offers that his publicist says he has been receiving. It's more a matter of him being completely on firm ground and being rehabilitated to the point where he is no longer, you know, a risk to himself. And the publicist concedes that that's still time a ways off and obviously corrections and Downey will have to get together and decide when he would be ready.

But back to thing about Downey's reputation, well, take Curtis Hanson, he was the director of "LA Confidential" and also "Wonder Boys" with Michael Douglas, which was a movie that received a lot of accolades last year.

Hanson is a smart guy and he just adores Downey and says when he was on his set absolutely no problems. I mean, there are other actors that, fortunately for them, do not have the legacy of Robert Downey's drug problems but, you know, they can be extremely disruptive on sets and you see some projects that basically die when someone starts acting up. It's kind of swept under the carpet but from everything that we know Downey hasn't gone on a set and torn something up.


VERCAMMEN: He basically does his job. And when he works he works hard. And, you know, they say an actor's experience is obviously the well they pull from and allows them to emote. And certainly Downey has a long and sorted tale and a range of experiences that he knows all about.

HARRIS: He's pretty good at digging those wells, there's no question about that. Let me ask you something else about the candor with which the publicists you were talking about moments ago -- the guy who represents him as well as Denzel?


HARRIS: In candidly -- in candidly speaking with him can you find out -- will he tell you or does he say at all how much of this interest in Downey is being generated strictly because of the publicity that he's already received and the fact that he's now notorious and because of that he can sell tickets to almost any kind of movie or he can sell almost any television show he shows up on -- not necessarily just because he's a good guy on the set but because now he's notorious?

VERCAMMEN: Well, I think it's a snowball effect. I mean, first and foremost we cannot take this away from Downey -- he is a respected actor. I mean, he is known as being a master at his craft. He is an Oscar nominee, his is a Golden Globe winner, you know. He keeps on getting nominated right and left -- there is no doubt -- because you'll hear in this town -- you'll hear what they say about folks. I mean, there are some people who are quite famous who, frankly, you get in a closed room with somebody or they tell you off the record, they'll take a poke at them. They'll say, "Well, they're really not that good at what they do. I mean, there's 25 other, let's say, stage actors who are doing a feeder up in Wisconsin right now who are better than this person but this person has the right genetic make up on a pan and issue camera that they look pretty decent and they can get people to tune into a TV show or movie.

They have never said this about Downey. He has always been about fundamentally the ability to make people believe him and that he is a true -- and that he often plays the vulnerable character, which is life has obviously been like.

And in terms of the publicists saying, "Well, they're just trying to cash in on his notoriety." There is no doubt that some calls have trickled in there from somebody thinking, "Hey, if I get Downey on this show I have got what I want and that is guaranteed ratings." But I think most of it comes from a true respect for his acting. Back to you guys.

HARRIS: Well, he is going to have to control that ability to convince this judge because it looks like they maybe -- his lawyers have just now re-entered the courtroom, Paul. And he is sitting down talking over I guess whatever they were discussing. They have a document there. They're going over this piece of paper which has obviously got to be the plea bargaining deal that they're working on there in that courtroom. Of course, right now we have no way of being privy to any of that information.

But we will keep our eye on this and we will come back for more live coverage in just a moment. Don't go away.


KAGAN: Taking you once again to live pictures from Indio, California. To the right of the screen, you'll see actor Robert Downey Jr. standing by, waiting to enter his plea agreement on drug charges from an incident dating back to last Thanksgiving.

Our Paul Vercammen is covering this story with us. He is live in Indio.

Paul, I want to bring you back and talk about more thought you were bringing right before the break, and that is Robert Downey Jr.'s reputation in Hollywood. Clearly, he has a long reputation of struggling with this drug problem, but what was different about the last extent was that it happened during a job, whereas, in the past, he tended to fall into trouble and get into trouble when he was not working. Would that would raise a red flag?

VERCAMMEN: Well, absolutely, it did. As we said, that is a cardinal sin because here in Hollywood, you can do a lot of things, but don't start messing around with people's bank accounts. That is a cardinal sin, and that may make some people extremely leery of ever jumping on a project with Downey. Who knows what assurances and guarantees that they could put in contract for any future projects.

Then again, as Leon raised the issue of, he's now a very marketable commodity. I mean, the next project -- can you imagine -- with Robert Downey's name attached to it will instantly bring a lot of attention and will probably be something that a lot of people will tune into or go see at the movie theater, just to see how all of this fares.

He does have that working for him, and he has something else working for him: He's popular in the town. Don't forget, when they nominate you for the Emmy Awards, these are your peers, your buddies; these are folks that you actually beat out. Other actors, who probably thought that they deserved an Emmy nomination, sat down and consciously wrote down Robert Downey Jr. on a piece of paper. And that's because you hear from the Calista Flockharts and other actors in this town that Robert's a supreme talent and basically a good guy.

He's obviously a tragic figure to many people in this town, and maybe they do feel sorry for him. I don't know if he was given a pity vote, if you will, but as we've been talking about a lot this morning, he does have a lot of respect in the acting community, and sometimes it's almost like he's that kid that somebody votes for class president that they all kind of like, they flat think he's an all right guy.

So that has long been part of his ability, I think, to survive in Hollywood. I've heard some legendary blowups by some bigger stars and heard some of the things that they say to people on set, and as far as I can tell, Downey has never, ever had any of those huge and malevolent hissy fits.

KAGAN: But what about the basic business aspect of this, Paul. Isn't it standard in a production that you would have to get insurance on a major star, and wouldn't it be difficult to getting insurance on Robert Downey Jr. at this point?

VERCAMMEN: That's the question. I don't know that it would be completely difficult. It might just be one of the highest premiums you would ever want to look at. It might be something greater than the insurance you get not to have fog wreck your shoot. That happened, for example, during "Basic Instinct." They go to a place and say can you insure my movie against it? At one point, they lost some shooting days because the fog rolled in. The contingencies and the dotted lines and the T's and the I's and all the things that they would have to cross and dot would be, I think, just mind numbing, and it might be a legendary new contract in Hollywood when they do try to insure him in the future.

This is not uncharted territory, of course. There have been other actors and actresses who have had their battles with drugs, but certainly, the repeat offenses by Downey are going to raise a lot of alarms and could lead to that, as I said, unique contract.

KAGAN: Paul, you mentioned earlier that Robert Downey Jr. is wearing an electronic tracking anklet. Tell us more about that.

VERCAMMEN: That's according to his parole officer. He says that Downey voluntarily -- and he suggests this is indicative of just how hard Robert Downey Jr. is trying to stay clean and sober -- opted to put this tracking bracelet on. So it's just a further protection in case for some reason, somehow, in the middle of the night, or somewhere, you know he tried to wander off, that kind of thing.

They've talked at length, the parole officers to me, about the fact that they think this time he is making an honest and earnest go of it. They say that they feel he looks good and he's making progress and that he is getting quite healthy. The last time -- let's face it -- he was in court -- I hate to try to be someone who characterizes the way somebody looks -- but I don't think Downey looked his best. But they say as he continues in this 12-step program, which is important to him, obviously, that he is taking his time with it (AUDIO GAP) his need to focus.

And they say at the small facility which he is now living in there are not a ton of beds; there are not a lot of people there, and there are not a lot of distractions. They also say due to the smallness of it, he's not getting what he might get somewhere else, and that is so many people walking up to him, confronting him, questioning him, possibly asking for an autograph, wanting him to recount what it was like when he made the movie "Chaplin," or tell them about "Ally McBeal."

They say that this is basically allowing Downey to go about his important business -- which is getting clean and sober -- and not being bothered by a lot of other people or extraneous influences. We will see.

His publicist echoes that, as you would expect, but he says he thinks Downey's doing the best he's don't in quite some time.

HARRIS: Paul, we're sitting here looking at this snapshot of his supporters in the courtroom right now. These are his lawyers who are seated next to him, but also behind him is the person who runs the drug counseling program where he's been staying for the last period of time.

That drug counseling that he's been seeking right now is also, as I understand, has been the focus of some criticism by this first lawyer, the other lawyer that he had working with him in the past. He's actually speaking out against Robert Downey Jr. being in this program. What do your know about that particular case?

VERCAMMEN: That is an extremely thorny issue. And Daniel Brookman and Mr. Waters and the rest of his legal team have raised some objections to the center he's now in. On the flip side, in checking with his parole agent, he basically says, Look, Robert Downey Jr. is in a licensed facility right now; we like the facility, and no way would we, as his parole officers, allow him to end up in any spot that would jeopardize him; we're absolutely on board with this place being legit; we're happy to see that he's making progress. And they just refuted that.

Another person, who I'll not name, in Downey's camp said off the record that they thought that Downey's previous lawyers were just taking a cheap shot because they were upset that they were fired. And that comes from a source very close to the Downey camp. So that's quite a thorny issue.

Going back to corrections, the State Department of Corrections is fine with it, and it is a licensed facility.

HARRIS: Since you bring up that word "fired," can you give us any information or background of why the original lawyers were fired?

VERCAMMEN: You know, that is something that has been very, very hush-hush. Obviously, Downey wanted to go in a different direction and settle the case. I think Downey's previous lawyers would argue that they already had this plea deal set up, but what happened here clearly is after Culver City, his arrest in April, in an alley, with cocaine, in what seemed to be just the most stark circumstances: What was Robert Downey doing in the middle of night in an area known for crack abuse. He was then taken, of course, to the correctional facility.

Maybe that changed the game for Downey. I can't completely put my mind in his, but at some point, he decided that he would make a legal change, and now here we are with the plea bargain.

There was that other scenario, as we said before, prior to that arrest in Culver City, where they were going to fight this case bitterly and, basically, bring up a lot of issues, including the whole reason as to why authorities wound up in his hotel room in the first place.

So here we are today. The prosecutor, as I said, coming into the courtroom, said to me she would be absolutely shocked if this is not wrapped up now.

HARRIS: Interesting. Paul, you stand by.

We're going to check another facet of this story, that facet being Proposition 36, which was approved by California voters last November.

Our Rusty Dornin takes a look now at how this new law works and what it may mean for Robert Downey Jr.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's not violent. He's definitely got a drug problem. And under California's new law, offenders like Robert Downey Jr. could get sentenced to treatment, not time.

GLENN BACKE, DRUG POLICY FOUNDATION: The only law they broke, is they are in possession of drugs. They have no other crimes at the time. And they have no other violent crimes in the last five years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are charged with being under the influence of cocaine.

DORNIN: Judge Peggy Hora once used treatment in jail like the carrot and the stick, a stick the new law all but takes away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are also eligible under California's new law which went into effect today...

DORNIN: Drug testing is another tool taken away by the new law. And without jail time or drug testing to keep addicts in line, Hora worries the whole experiment will end up sending the wrong message.

JUDGE PEGGY HORA, ALAMEDA COUNTY: My biggest fear is we are going to be spending all this money, half a billion dollars, to have people say treatment doesn't work. And that's not true.

DORNIN: In East Palo Alto's Free at Last drug treatment center, the new law will house another 12 addicts, but from the courtrooms to the treatment centers, no one is exactly sure how the law will work.

PRIYA HAJIC, TREATMENT PROGRAM ADVISER: We don't know how much money, we don't know exactly how many clients, and we don't know exactly what their needs are going to be.

DORNIN: Along with uncertainty, there are fears that prosecutors in some counties won't play fair.

Maybe the DAs are going to press secondary charges on everyone and you know, resisting arrest, or solicitation, because there is a secondary charge, it will disqualify you, and they can get you on the prison time.

DORNIN: California jails more drug users per capita than any other state. Not jailing low-level offenders could save $250 million a year, say supporters, for the next 5 1/2 years.

(on camera): About 36, 000 drug offenders will get sentenced annually to treatment. Will they go? Will they quit using drugs? The answers will determine the outcome of one of California's boldest legal experiments.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Francisco


KAGAN: The wait goes on in a California courtroom, Robert Downey Jr. awaiting the presence of a judge, to enter his plea agreement and be sentenced.



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