PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (Reuters) - Lawyers for Robert Downey Jr. told a judge on Thursday that they cannot reach a plea deal with prosecutors on drug charges against the troubled actor, clearing the way for a trial that could send him back to prison for nearly five years.
Superior Court Judge B.J. Bjork, who had twice postponed hearings in the case so that Downey's lawyers could negotiate with prosecutors, ordered the actor and attorneys back to court on April 30 for a preliminary hearing in the case.
Bjork will decide after the preliminary hearing if there is enough evidence to make Downey stand trial on charges of possessing cocaine and the prescription drug Valium that stem from his Nov. 25 arrest at a Palm Springs resort hotel.
Downey's arrest came just three months after the Oscar-nominated star of 'Chaplin' was released from a California prison, where he spent a year for drug charges.
Downey did not attend Thursday's brief hearing, at which his lawyers told Bjork they had not reached a deal with prosecutors, but must be present for the preliminary hearing.
Outside court, Downey's lawyer, Daniel Brookman, indicated to reporters that talks broke down because prosecutors were insisting that the actor spend time either in jail or a lock-down facility.
'They have made an offer that does call for some sort of restraint on Mr. Downey's freedom,' Brookman said.
In the past, lawyers for Downey have said they were trying to broker a deal that would let the actor -- who won a Screen Actor's Guild award earlier this week as best actor in a television series for his role in 'Ally McBeal' -- continue to work.
Brookman complained to reporters that Downey was arrested on the basis of an anonymous tip, which he described as 'the lowest form of information you can get' and urged prosecutors to help track down the so far unidentified caller.
But Deputy District Attorney Tammy Capone told reporters that the caller's identity was of no interest and that the evidence against Downey was sufficient.
'It's not illegal to call 911,' she said. 'We're not chasing after Mr. Downey because there's no evidence.'
Downey has announced that he will return to Fox-TV's 'Ally McBeal' for eight additional episodes, running through the end of the current season in May.
If convicted of all the charges against him -- felony possession of cocaine and the prescription drug Valium and a misdemeanor count of being under the influence of a controlled substance -- Downey faces a maximum term of four years and eight months in state prison.
He was hired as a recurring guest star on 'Ally McBeal,' playing the love interest of star Calista Flockhart's title character, just one week after his release from prison.
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