Robert Iler is out to prove just how different he is from the budding juvenile delinquent he plays on TV.
"I feel terribly embarrassed," Iler said in a prepared statement released Thursday. "I never, ever would or did rob anybody in my life. I know that the events of the past two days have been extremely difficult for my family and friends, and for that I am deeply sorry."
The 16-year-old, who plays Tony Soprano's troubled son Anthony "A.J." Soprano Jr., was arrested early Wednesday in New York and charged with two counts of second-degree robbery and one count of marijuana possession. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Wednesday evening and was released on $2,500 bail.
HBO has released a statement saying the young actor is still welcome on the mobster series. "We look forward to Robert joining us when The Sopranos resumes production in the fall."
Iler's attorney denies his client had any role in the alleged robbery.
"My client didn't threaten anybody, my client didn't hear anybody threaten anybody, my client didn't hear anyone ask for money," said attorney Steven Mintz. "Robert didn't hear anybody or see anybody receive money. And he only learned what had happened much later when he was picked up."
$40, Marijuana — and a World of Trouble
Police said Iler and three others confronted two other teenagers after midnight in a park on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and demanded money. Police said the suspects claimed to have a weapon, but did not produce one. The teens allegedly gave Iler and his companions $40.
The alleged victims then reported the incident to police and identified Iler and his companions, Alban Selimaj, 16, Michael Cournede, 19, and a 15-year-old male, police said. Police said they found a pipe and a small amount of marijuana on Iler and a box cutter on Cournede.
All four were charged with robbery, and Cournede faces a criminal weapons possession charge for the box cutter. The 15-year-old, whose name was being withheld because of his age, was released to his parents.
Sopranos: The Next Generation
Iler got his start in commercials at the age of 6. Known mostly for HBO's critically acclaimed gangster soap opera, Iler has also appeared in Oz, another drama on the cable network.
Iler's "A.J." Soprano — a glassy-eyed, Nintendo- obsessed brat — has quite a career in front of him as a juvenile delinquent. He broke into his math teacher's office to steal a test and vandalized the school's pool.
Unlike other members of his "family," A.J. has a bad knack for getting caught. He's done more than enough to get expelled. But A.J.'s a football star — and folks seem to have a tough time giving bad news to his well-connected father.
The school finally booted the kid, and his folks got so fed up they wanted to ship him off to a military academy. But they found he suffers from the same panic attacks as his Prozac-popping old man. The plan now is to keep him at home, where he one day may star in Sopranos: The Next Generation.
One of Iler's neighbors in Manhattan said the teenager doesn't seem like the character he plays on television. "He's a well-behaved kid so hopefully he's just in the wrong place at the wrong time and things'll work out right for him," Margie Daly said.
ABC station WABC in New York contributed to this report.