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Downey Is Arrested in a Culver City Alley

Police: Again accused of drug use, the actor checks into a rehabilitation clinic. He is written out of 'Ally McBeal' for the season.

April 25, 2001|NICHOLAS RICCARDI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actor Robert Downey Jr. was arrested again early Tuesday in a Culver City alley on suspicion of using drugs and promptly checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic, according to authorities and Downey's publicist.

The arrest ends his filming for the television show "Ally McBeal" for this season, a Fox spokesman said. Downey was scheduled to film scenes for the next few days but has now been written out, producer David E. Kelley said.

"We are wrapping up the stories on the final few episodes of 'Ally McBeal' for the season without him," Kelley said.

It's unclear whether Downey's contract will be extended into the next season, the spokesman said, or whether this arrest essentially ends his run on the show.

The latest arrest comes less than a week before Downey's next expected court hearing on drug charges stemming from an arrest in Palm Springs over Thanksgiving weekend. It was not known what effect the latest arrest would have on that case.

Tuesday, a police officer spotted the 36-year-old Oscar nominee off a rundown strip of Washington Boulevard just after midnight, said Culver City Police Lt. David Tankenson.

The officer did not recognize the actor, who was "displaying symptoms of someone under the influence of a controlled substance," Tankenson said.

Lt. Chris Gutierrez said Downey told police he was trying to help a friend with a drug problem and led police to a room at a nearby motel.

At the room, police arrested Albert Aleixo, 45, a Downey acquaintance, Gutierrez said, and both men were taken into custody on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs. Aleixo was turned over to the Los Angeles Police Department for outstanding warrants, Gutierrez said.

Police did not find drugs or drug paraphernalia on either of the men, Gutierrez added.

At the police station, a cooperative Downey submitted to a urine test, and he was released to his parole agent with a citation to appear in court May 4 in the misdemeanor case, Tankenson said.

Downey publicist Alan Nierob released a single-sentence statement saying the actor then checked himself into an undisclosed drug rehabilitation facility.

Downey had been scheduled to appear Tuesday night at the Virgin Megastore in West Hollywood with singer Vonda Shepard to promote her new album of songs from "Ally McBeal." Virgin's Web site said the appearance was canceled due to "unforeseen circumstances."

It has not been determined whether Downey will appear on the TV show using scenes already filmed, the Fox spokesman said.

The actor has been in 14 episodes this season, and he will be in the segment to air Monday.

Downey's problems with the law began in 1996, when he was arrested on suspicion of drug possession, driving under the influence and carrying a concealed handgun. He later pleaded no contest to those charges.

But two weeks after that incident, he was arrested again after he stumbled into a neighbor's home and passed out while under the influence of drugs. Three days later, police arrested him once more, this time for leaving a recovery center.

He was placed on probation, and after two violations was sent to the San Joaquin Valley's Corcoran State Prison in 1999 by an angry judge. Downey served one year in prison.

The latest arrest comes as Downey's lawyers challenge the legality of the Palm Strings hotel room search conducted after an anonymous 911 caller reported that someone in the room had guns and drugs.

Downey was charged with felony possession of cocaine and Valium and a misdemeanor count of being under the influence of a controlled substance. No weapons were found.

Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Tamara Capone declined to comment when reached late Tuesday, but she has previously said that police acted appropriately and that prosecutors have enough evidence to go to trial.

Downey's next expected court hearing in that case is Monday. If found guilty, he could face up to four years and eight months in prison, prosecutors have said. However, in December an assistant district attorney said the actor could be eligible for an intensive yearlong outpatient program offered through the court.

James Stillwell, executive director of IMPACT, a rehabilitation program Downey had checked into before he went to prison, said he was not surprised at the most recent turn of events. "As long as you continue to use drugs, sooner or later it's going to be jails, mental institutions or death.

"Robert is just another addict that hasn't stopped using and is paying the price," he said.

*

Times staff writers Greg Braxton and Hector Becerra contributed to this story.

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