Robert Downey Jr. is cleared of drug charges. Over the objections of prosecutors, a judge rules that the troubled actor has fulfilled his probation requirements and wipes his Thanksgiving 2000 arrest from the books
Robert Downey Jr., Primetime Emmy Awards 2001
Credit: Robert Downey Jr.: Vince Bucci/Getty Images/Newscom

”I’m going out on a limb for you.” So said a California judge, according to published reports, who ruled Friday that Robert Downey Jr. had fulfilled the terms of his probation and dismissed the charges against him stemming from his cocaine-possession arrest in November 2000 at a Palm Springs hotel. This despite the concern of the Riverside County prosecutor, who argued for an additional six months of probation for the recovering addict.

Downey had been sentenced a year ago to three years of probation that included one year at a live-in rehab center. Speaking to the Associated Press, prosecutor Kevin Shek said of the 37-year-old actor, ”He did well, but the law allows an additional six months of aftercare. That would have been appropriate given his history of substance abuse.” He said to Reuters, ”Returning to the lion’s den can be dangerous.” But Judge Randall White denied Shek’s request for additional probation time and dismissed the case.

Downey’s lawyer, James Epstein, noted to Reuters that the actor remains on parole for an earlier drug charge. ”He is still in the 12 steps program and doing a lot of voluntary work,” Epstein said. However, Friday’s ruling should inspire confidence in Downey among casting directors and insurers of movie productions. ”It means he is much more insurable for making movies…. He is ecstatic,” Epstein said.

Besides, Downey said, the industry has little tolerance anymore for performers whose drug use makes them unreliable, telling Reuters that Hollywood ”is not like that anymore. It’s a lot more straitlaced and they’re not interested in people who are not going to show up and be healthy.”

Downey recently completed a starring role in ”The Singing Detective,” an adaptation of Dennis Potter’s British miniseries about a seriously ill writer with a vivid, musical fantasy life. It was his first movie since ”Wonder Boys” in 2000.