Robert Downey Jr. Pleads Not Guilty

I N D I O, Calif., Dec. 27, 2000 -- Robert Downey Jr. pleaded not guilty today to new drug charges stemming from his Thanksgiving weekend arrest at a desert resort.

Downey, 35, who was arrested only four months after being released from prison in another drug case, entered not guilty pleas to felony possession of cocaine and felony possession of the tranquilizer diazepam, each punishable by up to three years in state prison.

Downey Up for Golden Globe

The actor, nominated last week for a Golden Globe for his recurring role on the TV show Ally McBeal, also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of being under the influence of a controlled substance, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence.

He also pleaded not guilty to a one-year prison enhancement for his prior drug conviction.

The Oscar-nominated star of Chaplin eluded a media throng outside the courthouse 130 miles east of Los Angeles by entering through a side door about 8 a.m.

During the brief arraignment before Superior Court Judge B.J. Bjork, Downey let his lawyer, Daniel Brookman, do the talking. The lawyer entering the pleas on the actor’s behalf.

No Drama This Time

There was no drama like a previous appearance in Malibu when he described his drug problems: “It’s like I’ve got a shotgun in my mouth, with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal,” Downey told a judge in 1999.

Today, Downey was asked at one point if he understood his constitutional rights and the actor stood and replied, “Yes, your honor.”

Brookman then said “not guilty” to the charges.

Brookman argued unsuccessfully before entering the pleas that he needed more time to examine evidence made available Dec. 22, evidence that included audio tapes. The lawyer also said he hasn’t reviewed laboratory results.

Noting charges were filed Dec. 11, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Patricia Kelly said prosecutors weren’t required to produce evidence until 30 days before trial and postponement of arraignment wasn’t warranted.

“There is no valid reason behind it,” she said.

The judge agreed.

“There isn’t good legal cause for a continuance,” the judge said, adding, “The motion for a continuation of the arraignment is denied.”

Another hearing was scheduled for Jan. 29.

Downey signed a waiver that allows pretrial hearings to proceed without his presence. Downey must appear Jan. 29, however.

The actor was arrested Nov. 25 after an anonymous 911 call led police investigators to a room at Merv Griffin’s Resort Hotel and Givenchy Spa. The police allegedly found Downey with cocaine and methamphetamine.

After Downey’s arrest, his publicist assessed his client’s situation.

“He’s a recovering addict. Recovering addicts have relapses. He’s working hard at his sobriety as he has for the last 18 months,” spokesman Alan Nierob said.