Plea bargain keeps Downey out of jail

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Robert Downey Jnr, the troubled Hollywood actor, pleaded no contest yesterday on two drugs-related charges as part of a plea bargain that will keep him out of prison as long as he spends a year in a live-in rehab facility and does not get into further trouble.

The 36-year-old actor was told by the judge in Indio, a desert town two hours' drive east of Los Angeles, that if he violated the terms of the deal he could face as much as four years' hard labour.

The court appearance related to Downey's arrest in November last year in a ritzy resort hotel in Palm Springs, not far from Indio. He pleaded guilty to one felony charge of cocaine possession and one misdemeanour of being under the influence of the drug.