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    What's Next for Downey?

    Just as quickly as his post-prison career re-ignited--and recovery from drug addiction seemed promising--Robert Downey Jr.'s arrest in Palm Springs this weekend on drug possession charges raises more questions about the actor's future, and whether Hollywood will give him another shot. Or, perhaps more importantly, whether a judge will, too.

    The 35-year-old current Ally McBeal costar is free on $15,000 bail following his arrest on charges of possessing illegal drugs and being under the influence of a controlled substance. Downey was picked up about 9:45 p.m. Saturday at Merv Griffin's Resort Hotel and Givenchy Spa, a posh, celeb-friendly resort in the Southern California desert community. Police reportedly found him in his room, alone, with 4.5 grams of methamphetamine and cocaine.

    It couldn't come at a worse time--just three months after Downey was freed from a California State Prison, and just weeks into what appeared to be a hugely successful comeback.

    He had already appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly and won raves for his work as Ally's love interest on Ally McBeal. He also was scheduled to appear onstage in Los Angeles as the lead in a Mel Gibson-directed Hamlet, and in the spring, he was slated to shoot America's Sweethearts alongside Julia Roberts starting in January.

    Now, it's unclear what's next for the oft-troubled actor. Downey must appear in an Indio, California, court December 27 to deal with the current charges.

    The actor was not on parole as a condition of his release from Corcoran State Prison in August, but he still faces a maximum of one year in state prison or county jail on each of the two possession charges. Downey also faces 90 days to one year on the charge of being under the influence. And as a previous offender, Downey could receive additional punishment if convicted.

    As for his work commitments, Downey returned to the set of Ally McBeal Tuesday, where he's expected to finish work on the final two episodes of his 10-episode commitment. "We're happy Robert is back on the set and working," said Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman.

    But any future plans for Downey on the show remain up in the air. "Nobody has closed the door on his prospect of coming back sometime during the course of the season," Fox TV Chairman Sandy Grushow said during a sweeps press conference Tuesday.

    Berman, however, added that Downey's gig was never permanent in the first place. "We send all our good wishes to him [but] it was a limited arc and we always planned it as a limited arc," she said. "It's unfortunate, but we have a television show to produce."

    Still, Downey's arrest has weighed on everyone's minds in Hollywood this week, as some pondered the situation and expressed their sympathy. "I don't know enough about the situation to comment on it, but I think it's unfortunate," CBS TV Network President Leslie Moonves said Monday. "He's a terrific actor, and I'm sorry he's in that situation."

    Palm Springs police were first tipped off Saturday by a 911 call from an anonymous man. A tape of the call, obtained by E! News Daily, stated: "Uh yeah, I'd just like to let you know that in room 311 at the Merv Griffin Resort there's a man that has an ounce of cocaine and a couple of guns and is pretty upset. Thank you."

    Police said they arrived at the hotel and Downey agreed to let them in. They found no weapons, but they did find a white powder in a brown prescription-pill bottle.

    "He was very cooperative through the investigation and did not offer any resistance. But he did show signs of being under the influence of a central nervous system stimulant," Palm Springs police Sergeant Don Craiger told the Desert Sun newspaper.

    While in custody, Downey reportedly asked arresting officer Brian Anderson for a cigarette. Anderson declined Downey's request, saying he didn't want to give him special celebrity treatment, to which Downey reportedly responded: "I'm not a movie star right now. I'm just a guy with a drug problem."

    Local bail bondsman Jack Duke said he posted the $15,000 bail for Downey, and the actor was released from custody about 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

    "Very nice guy, very pleasant--and he wasn't loaded; just tired," Duke tells E! Online. "The poor guy was beat. And dealing with these kind of people, I know when they're loaded. We shook hands...and he had a friend, a handler, pick him up."

    Downey's troubles trace back to 1996, after a traffic stop turned up cocaine, heroin and a loaded pistol in his car. A month later, he was found passed out in a child's bed at his neighbor's house. And three days later, he was busted for leaving a recovery center.

    The actor and onetime Oscar nominee was sentenced to three years' probation in 1996, and later spent time in Los Angeles County jail for violating the probation. He was sentenced to a stint in Corcoran State Prison last year after he slipped up again.

    (originally posted on 11/27/00 at 5:30 p.m. PT)

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