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Robert Downey Jr.’s Tragic True Life Story

In the late 1990s, Robert Downey Jr. was a cautionary tale of how far a star could fall. And in 1999, after missing yet another court-ordered drug test, Downey had the book thrown at him, receiving a sentence of three years in prison. He was released after just 15 months, but the actor has often looked back at that year as the worst time in his life.

“Arguably the most dangerous place I’ve ever been in my life,” said Downey on Dax Shepard’s podcast the Armchair Expert (via People). “You could just feel the evil in the air … It was kind of like just being in a really bad neighborhood, and there was no opportunity there; there was only threats.” He likened the experience to being on an alien planet with no way back to Earth. Yet, it wasn’t the end of his legal troubles, because just months after his release in 2000, he was arrested once more, this time on Thanksgiving weekend, for possession of drugs and being under the influence of narcotics, and was nabbed again by police in a Los Angeles alley. 

In 2015, having been clean and sober for over a decade, California Governor Jerry Brown gave Downey an unconditional pardon for his past offenses. Though his record wasn’t expunged entirely, the pardon means he once again has the right to vote, something felons lost in California until Proposition 17 was approved in 2020.

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