- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 13, 2010

LITCHFIELD, CONN. (AP) - Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped a felony burglary charge against actor Rip Torn, clearing the way for him to seek special probation that might settle charges that he broke into a bank while drunk and armed in January.

The Emmy-winning actor, 79, applied for accelerated rehabilitation, a program for first-time nonviolent offenders that allows charges to be dropped after a probation period.

Prosecutors will argue against the application at a hearing Aug. 11, Litchfield State’s Attorney David Shepack said. Torn spoke in court Tuesday to answer questions from the judge only.

Despite opposing the special probation request, Shepack said dropping the burglary charge was appropriate because nothing indicated Torn intended to burglarize the Salisbury bank when he broke in, thinking it was his own nearby home.

That felony burglary charge had blocked Torn from requesting the special probation.

He has pleaded not guilty to criminal trespass, carrying a weapon while intoxicated, carrying a weapon without a permit and criminal mischief.

He completed an alcohol rehabilitation program over the winter and remains in outpatient treatment including Alcoholics Anonymous, and has gotten rid of all his weapons, his attorney said.

“He’s done very well and all reports have been successful in treatment and abstinence,” attorney A. Thomas Waterfall said Tuesday, calling the treatment “an ongoing endeavor.”

Shepack did not elaborate during court proceedings Tuesday on why prosecutors would oppose the special probation request, and a message seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Dozens of people have sent letters of support to Torn in care of Waterfall, who described the writers as “people who know him” and “strangers who support his work and are interested in seeing him continue on.”

Waterfall said Torn is “very excited about some upcoming projects,” though he would not say whether Torn has been approached to reprise his role as Chief Zed in the “Men in Black” series. A third installment is in the works.

Torn was arrested Jan. 29 after he broke into a Litchfield Bancorp branch near his home in Salisbury, according to court records.

Police say he thought he was home, taking off his hat and boots and leaving them by the door. Officers found him wandering and incoherent, and they discovered a loaded .22-caliber revolver in Torn’s pocket.

A breath test showed his blood-alcohol content was 0.203 _ about 2 1/2 times the legal limit for drivers in Connecticut, the court records say.

Torn didn’t brandish the weapon when the officers confronted him, according to his attorney and court records. He has no history of violence. His permit to carry a firearm in Connecticut had expired in October 2007.

Torn was given probation last year in a Connecticut drunken driving case and allowed to enter an alcohol-education program. A Connecticut judge dismissed the drunken driving charge against him earlier this year based on his successful completion of that program.

He also has two previous drunken driving arrests in New York.

The actor, whose real name is Elmore Rual Torn, has appeared on the television show “30 Rock” and won an Emmy in 1996 for his work on “The Larry Sanders Show.” Along with “Men in Black,” his recent movie credits include “The Insider” and “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”

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