Downey Gets Prison Time

Robert Downey Jr., the Oscar-nominated actor plagued by addictions to alcohol, cocaine and heroin, was sentenced to three years in prison for violating probation from a 1996 drug conviction.

Downey, 34, was jailed six weeks ago, after he admitted during his regular half-yearly visit to a California court that he was missing scheduled drug tests.

The actor asked to be kept on probation so he could continue treatment at a drug rehabilitation center.

"It's been the right program at the right time for me," Downey told the judge Thursday. "I feel whatever decision you make will be the right one. . . . But I feel a transition has happened to me."

Of his addiction, Downey explained: "It's like I've got a shotgun in my mouth, with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal," he said.

But Municipal Court Judge Lawrence Mira, who presided over Downey's original case in 1996, said he had given the actor many chances to rehabilitate himself. Downey has manipulated doctors and psychiatrists during seven court-ordered drug rehabilitation programs, the judge added.

"I don't think we have any alternative," the judge said. "We have used them all."

The judge gave Downey 201 days for time served and ordered him to pay restitution of $600. Attorneys said he would probably serve about a year.

Defense attorney Robert Shapiro (yes, the same lawyer who helped get O.J. Simpson acquitted) argued that Downey should again receive probation and be allowed to continue treatment at a drug treatment center.

Paula's Day in Court

Paula Jones has an October court date to fight a ticket charging her with driving with a suspended license. She pleaded innocent via fax to the court in Benton, Ark., on Wednesday.

If convicted, she would have to pay a $275 fine, plus court costs.

A state trooper stopped Jones in late June after noticing that her 1993 Mercedes-Benz had a broken taillight. She was cited after a check showed that her California driver's license had been suspended for failure to appear on a misdemeanor charge involving unpaid fines.

The fines in that case were paid this week.

Last year, Jones reached an $850,000 settlement with the president to drop her lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment.

End Notes

The Mediterranean-style Miami Beach palazzo where Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace was gunned down by a fugitive serial killer two years ago is on the market for $23 million. Versace was killed in 1997 on the steps of his villa, and since then, the site has become one of Miami's leading tourist attractions. Every day, visitors to the glitzy South Beach neighborhood stop to have their pictures taken in front of the iron gates where Versace fell. "It's a spectacular house. It's really unique in the world," Versace family spokesman Lou Colasuonno said. "But the family focus has shifted. The South Beach home is unfortunately now underutilized." . . . There's a new entry in the comedy circuit: John Wayne Bobbitt, who became a household name at the hands of his then-wife when she cut off his subsequently reattached penis. He said he has trained with established Los Angeles comedians and is booked at a Toronto club next week. "I had a bad relationship and I think I can talk about that, have some advice," said Bobbitt, who also dabbled in the adult movie field: "Like sleep on your stomach."