January 25, 1999 12:00 AM

Oscar-nominated actor Robert Downey Jr., 34, who says he has been hooked on drugs since the age of 8, was sentenced on Thursday to three years in jail for repeatedly violating his parole on drug charges. An angry Malibu Municipal Court judge named Lawrence Mira rejected pleas from the high-profile actor’s lawyer and a probation report recommending that he not be jailed. (Mira had previously sentenced Downey to four months in Los Angeles County Jail in 1997 for an earlier probation violation when he tested positive for drugs.) “I don’t believe your client is committed to not using drugs. You may call that addiction. But there is some level of choice,” Mira told Downey’s latest celebrity lawyer, Robert Shapiro, after noting that the actor had been in (and flunked) seven different drug treatment programs since his original arrest in June 1996. Despite his problems, Downey has three films coming out this year.

  • Mira gave Downey credit for 201 days of jail time served since his arrest and that, coupled with time off for good behavior, could mean that the actor might be out of jail in a year and a day. Shapiro, best remembered for his Dream Team role in having successfully defended O.J. Simpson, argued that Downey was now a changed man and deserved a break. “He is demonstrating an attitude that he never has had. He is positive,” Shapiro said.

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