The former Ally McBeal costar (and recent Emmy nominee) pleaded no contest Monday to felony and misdemeanor drug charges stemming from his arrest last November at a Palm Springs resort. And in turn, Downey was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to remain in a live-in drug rehab facility for at least a year.
The 36-year-old actor could have faced up to four years in prison. But Riverside County Superior Court Judge Randall White warned Downey Monday that there would be "severe consequences" if he doesn't keep up his end of the bargain, and Downey could be sent back to prison for four years if he violates his probation.
"Thank you for your consideration, your honor," Downey replied. He's due back in court November 15 for a progress hearing.
Monday's sentencing was the result of a deal Downey's lawyers struck with prosecutors in May, which would keep him out of prison in exchange for no contest pleas to felony cocaine possession and a misdemeanor count of being under the influence of a controlled substance.
All told, it wraps up what's been another year of extreme highs and lows for Downey, who was released from prison last August and experienced a successful career comeback with Fox's All McBeal--only to be derailed by a string of addiction-related run-ins.
Palm Springs police were called to Downey's room at the ritzy Merv Griffin Resort last November 25, after an anonymous 911 caller reported there were drugs and weapons there. Police found no weapons, but they did allegedly find 4.5 grams of cocaine and 16 Diazepam pills, also known as Valium, stuffed inside a Kleenex box. (Prosecutors later dropped the misdemeanor Valium-possession charge.)
Downey's troubles continued in April, after police arrested him in a Culver City alley on suspicion of being under the influence of a stimulant. Tests allegedly showed that Downey had cocaine in his system, but prosecutors decided not to pursue drug charges--opting instead to let Downey's parole officers handle the matter.
Since the Culver City arrest, Downey has remained at Wavelengths, a live-in drug treatment facility in Malibu. The actor has been subject to random drug testing, and he must wear an electronic ankle bracelet any time he leaves the center.
Prosecutors seemed willing to let Downey remain there rather than send him back to prison, thanks in part to California's Proposition 36--a recently passed voter initiative that calls for treatment instead of prison for many drug offenders.
Downey's lawyer, James Epstein, told reporters that the actor "is doing excellent." Downey, who has already received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for his work on Ally McBeal, also got a boost last Thursday when he picked up an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor.
Meanwhile, state corrections officials who are overseeing Downey's parole said Monday they were optimistic about his progress, but emphasized that he must stay out of trouble or he'll be back behind bars. "I would think he and his family are pleased," says State Department of Corrections spokeswoman Margot Bach. "But he is subject to prison time--four years of it--if he breaks that probation."