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Downey pleads not guilty to drug charges

Downey, Jr.
Downey, seated in court prior to his arraignment, faces prison time if convicted on drug charges.  

INDIO, California (CNN) -- Robert Downey Jr. pleaded not guilty Thursday to drug charges stemming from a Thanksgiving weekend arrest, the latest installment in the popular actor's long-running battle with drug addiction.

The actor, dressed in a dark suit and red tie, said nothing to the court during the brief proceeding. Downey's attorney entered the plea before a judge in a Riverside County court in Southern California. A hearing date was set for July 16.

Downey, 36, had been charged with two counts of felony cocaine and Valium possession and one misdemeanor count of being under the influence of a controlled substance.

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He pleaded not guilty to those charges in January, but had to be arraigned again after prosecutors agreed Wednesday to drop the Valium charge to a misdemeanor.

Deputy District Attorney Tamara Capone said she agreed with Downey's lawyers that Valium possession is a misdemeanor charge under California law.

Police arrested Downey in November at the Merv Griffin Resort in Palm Springs, California, after they responded to a 911 caller reporting someone in the room had guns and drugs. No weapons were found.

Attorneys for Downey are challenging the legality of his arrest, saying police did not have probable cause to enter his private hotel suite based on an anonymous 911 call.

Capone said Wednesday that police acted appropriately and pointed out prosecutors have enough evidence to go to trial. Downey rejected a recent plea bargain after prosecutors demanded he serve jail time.

Following the arraignment, however, Capone said talks about a possible pre-trial settlement continued between both sides. "We're getting close to a disposition," she said. She left open the possibility of a plea agreement involving no jail time but requiring rehabilitation and after-care treatment.

The actor, who has battled drug addiction for years, is at a mandatory six-month-minimum live-in drug treatment facility in Southern California following an April 24 arrest in Culver City, California, for being under the influence of a controlled substance. Prosecutors did not file criminal charges in that case, allowing state correction officials to handle it as a parole violation.

A spokesman for the California state Department of Corrections said Downey will remain under strict supervision and be required to submit to more frequent drug tests as part of his rehabilitation.

Downey, who recently starred on the hit TV series "Ally McBeal," was released from state prison in August after serving time for violating his probation on other drug-related offenses. Following his April 24 arrest, producers of "Ally McBeal" announced they would finish the season without him.

If convicted, Downey could be sentenced to state prison. He is free on $15,000 bond.

In January, Downey was honored with a Golden Globe trophy for his role in "Ally McBeal" and later received the Screen Actors Guild Award as best supporting actor.

CNN National Correspondent Frank Buckley contributed to this report.


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