Hd Jail, Hollywood Style
Each day in Los Angeles, roughly 1,000 new offenders enter the county jail system a system that includes seven separate jails spanning 4,000 square miles and housing a total of 22,000 inmates. For the vast majority of inmates, it's a dehumanizing and often dangerous process.
But not if you're Robert Downey Jr.
Because he is a Hollywood celebrity, and because a municipal court judge handling his case has exhibited incredibly poor judgment, Downey has been allowed to host "Saturday Night Live," participate in an interview for ABC, and actually leave jail on several occasions to do studio work.
Not everyone is happy with this arrangement. Prosecutors and the county Sheriff's Department have been raising objections, especially in light of reports that the deputies escorting Downey to Paramount and Warner Bros. asked for autographs and posed with him for pictures.
It was during one of those excursions that Downey and the deputies reportedly were involved in a fender-bender. The actor now says he has neck pain. Can a lawsuit against the county be far behind?
It should be noted that Downey is hardly a first offender. He is doing time in the Men's Central Jail for breaking parole the second time that's happened in a year. It was in 1996 that he pleaded no contest to felony drug and weapons counts.
Still under investigation is whether Downey had drug paraphernalia smuggled into the Twin Towers correctional facility. All told, his bad-boy antics have been splashed in the tabloids and on TV for months.
But let's face it: being wealthy and well known accords certain privileges in the judicial system whether it's hiring a high-priced attorney or receiving the benefit of the doubt by a star-struck judge. We need only remember the circus-like atmosphere during the O.J. Simpson criminal trial in which Superior Court Judge Lance Ito would routinely entertain celebrities in his chambers to recognize that judges, too, can succumb to celebrity.
But even Ito pulled back when it came to Simpson himself. In Downey's case, the actions by Malibu Municipal Judge Lawrence Mira are so inappropriate on so many levels that it's a wonder Downey's lawyer, former Los Angeles District Attorney Ira Reiner, can keep a straight face.
The rationale for Downey's special arrangement is his previous commitment to ongoing movie projects. Without Downey, his spokespeople claim, those projects could fall through, resulting in economic hardship for the parties involved. That's a dubious defense, at best.
The fact that Downey is willing to cover the cost of the deputy escorts shouldn't influence the decision either (even though Mira has agreed to release Downey for two more studio days).
We recognize that celebrity inmates often require special arrangements during incarceration. That includes being cordoned off from the general population for their own protection. But the time spent in jail should not be based on the convenience of the person being put away.
It's yet another example of the terrible messages often delivered out of Hollywood. In this case, the message is loud and clear: If you're rich and famous, you can get away with lots of things even if they happen to be illegal.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.