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'American Idol' Alum Antonella Barba's Family Says Show Partially To Blame For Fentanyl Conviction

Friends and family of the reality contestant said her experience on the show was "devastating" as they argued for leniency in her drug-trafficking case.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt
These Reality Television Celebrities Became Criminals

As “American Idol” alum Antonella Barba awaits sentencing Thursday on a federal drug charge, her lawyers are arguing for a lighter sentence.

Barba's attorneys are pointing to the relatively small scope of her crime, and blaming her actions partially on her experience striving for success on "Idol," then being kicked off the reality show. 

The results were "devastating" to Barba, a friend wrote in a letter to the court obtained by USA Today.

Barba, 32, pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl after being caught in October 2018 with 830.9 grams of fentanyl — nearly two pounds — in a shoebox in her car, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Prosecutors are seeking 57 to 71 months in prison, but Barba’s lawyers argued for 37 to 46, citing claims that she played a minor role in a much bigger plot, according to USA Today.

Antonella Barba G

Barba’s lawyers argued that her crime amounts to a “single instance” of “delivering one shipment of drugs,” according to recently filed court documents obtained by The Blast.

In their bid for leniency, Barba’s legal team submitted letters written by her loved ones that speak to her character and struggles, according to USA Today.

Barba's mother pointed to her daughter’s 2007 “American Idol” run as the catalyst for a profoundly negative change in her life, Fox News reports. After Barba failed to secure the votes needed to progress through the competition, she moved to Los Angeles, California — a decision her mother called a “recipe for disaster,” according to court documents obtained by the outlet.

The singer was arrested in Norfolk, Virginia, on Oct. 11 after authorities received a tip that another party, Justin Michael Isaac, would be traveling from the Washington, D.C., area to Norfolk in order to make a delivery of the synthetic opioids, according to The Virginian-Pilot’s report. However, Isaac later told a third party that he’d be sending a woman to deliver the drugs instead; police kept watch outside of the house where the delivery was set to take place, which is how they came to find Barba with the drugs, the paper reports.

Isaac was also arrested and charged with distributing drugs including heroin and cocaine while taking part in a drug ring between 2017 and 2018, according to NBC News.

In the newly filed court docs, Barba’s lawyers claim that, when she agreed to make the delivery that led to her arrest, she was ignorant of what she was actually in possession of, The Blast reports.

“Ms. Barba had very little if any insight into the scope and structure of this conspiracy,” court documents read. “In fact, prior to receiving the package, she did not know the type of substance or the quantity she was to deliver. Ms. Barba also did not participate in any of the planning or organization nor did she exercise any decision making authority. As indicated above, Ms. Barba's conduct in this offense was limited to this single delivery. That was her sole responsibility; she picked up a package and transported it from one location to another.”

Barba, her lawyers claimed, simply followed directions, and did not collect any money from the sale of the drugs.

In response to Friday’s filing, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger argued against a reduced sentence for the troubled singer, according to NJ.com.

Barba’s "conduct — flying across the country, renting a car, receiving a shoebox full of drugs, and transporting said drugs approximately 190 miles to Norfolk — was both material and essential to the commission of the offense,” he wrote.

Barba is in custody pending sentencing, where she could face a maximum of 10 years to life behind bars, the outlet reports.

In addition to “American Idol,” Barba was featured on “Fear Factor” in 2012.

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