Calif. Gov. Pardons Robert Downey Jr. for 1996 Drug Conviction | NBC Connecticut

Calif. Gov. Pardons Robert Downey Jr. for 1996 Drug Conviction

The "Iron Man" actor was convicted of felony drug possession stemming from an arrest on a Los Angeles County highway nearly two decades ago

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    In this file photo, Robert Downey Jr. visits "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" at Rockefeller Center on April 27, 2015 in New York City.

    California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned actor Robert Downey Jr. Thursday for a 1996 drug conviction that sent the actor to prison.

    List: Dec. 24, 2015 Pardons

    Brown's office announced Thursday that the "Iron Man" star was among 91 people receiving pardons.

    The Oscar-nominated actor was convicted of felony drug possession after he was arrested in June 1996 on Pacific Coast Highway and authorities found heroin, cocaine and a pistol in his vehicle. In 1999, he was sent to prison for nearly a year after he acknowledged violating his probation.

    But Downey's life and career have rebounded, making him one of Hollywood's shining comeback stories. Since 2008, Disney has entrusted Downey to portray "Iron Man" in a series of blockbuster films, including "The Avengers," based on the Marvel comic books.

    Downey, 50, is a two-time Oscar nominee for his roles in 1992's "Chaplin" and 2008's "Tropic Thunder."

    Downey obtained the pardon after getting a judge to issue a Certificate of Rehabilitation, required as part of the application for a pardon. The process showed Downey has "lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character, and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen," according to the proclamation from Brown's office.

    It also said Downey "has paid his debt to society and earned a full and unconditional pardon."

    An email to Downey's publicist, Allison Garman, wasn't immediately returned to The Associated Press.

    All individuals pardoned Thursday completed their sentences and have been released from custody for more than a decade without committing a crime, according to a statement from the governor's office. The pardons are issued to applicants who have shown "exemplary behavior and have lived productive and law-abiding lives following their conviction."

    Once the pardon is granted, the state's department of justice and the FBI are notified so the agencies can update the applicant's records.

    The Democratic governor, a former Jesuit seminarian, has made it a practice to issue pardons around Christian holidays. The state's longest-serving governor has now issued 1,087 pardons, including 683 in the past five years and 404 during his first eight years in office from 1975-1983, according to his office.

    Most of those pardoned Thursday were convicted of drug and property crimes, though three were convicted of arson, one of kidnapping and one of vehicular manslaughter. Three were convicted of assaults using deadly weapons and one of carjacking with a BB gun. Many are now residents of other states.

    The hundreds of pardons Brown has issued in each of his four terms are typical -- except for his three immediate predecessors. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger granted 15, Democrat Gray Davis granted none, and Republican Pete Wilson granted 13.

    Former Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan granted nearly 600, according to Brown's office.