Andrew Essex
December 19, 1997 AT 05:00 AM EST

As Robert Downey Jr. sits in the L.A. County jail, he might recall the theme from Baretta —”Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” Downey should take heart: He’s not the only star to spend a little time in the slammer. A brief history of celebrity sentencing:

ROBERT MITCHUM Crime: Criminal conspiracy to possess marijuana (1949) Sentence: 60 days; reduced to 50 days for good behavior Post-incarceration employment: Went on to make dozens of classic films before he died last July

JAMES BROWN Crime: Failed to stop during police chase, assault (1988) Sentence: Six years; served 16 months Employment: Still touring at 69, the Godfather of Soul remains the hardest-working ex-con in show business.

SEAN PENN Crime: Violated parole for misdemeanor assault (1987) Sentence: 60 days; served 32 Employment: Resumed successful acting career; recently played weaselly thug in U-Turn

DAVID CROSBY Crime: Illegal possession of cocaine and a handgun (1982) Sentence: Five years; released after five months (an appeals court later threw out the conviction) Employment: Fitted with new liver, hirsute folkie now performs solo and with former partners Stills and Nash.

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