'American Idol' alum Antonella Barba sentenced to 45 months in federal prison in drug case

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

One-time American Idol hopeful Antonella Barba has been sentenced to 45 months in federal prison in her drug case.

The sentence was handed down Thursday by Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Va. Barba was also ordered to undergo five years of supervised release once her sentence ends.

Before turning over Barba to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the judge called her an “A-plus person,” citing letters written on her behalf by friends and family, the Virginian-Pilot reports. “There is so much wonderful stuff in these letters. Hopefully you will be a bright light in the [Bureau of Prison].”

Former American Idol contestant Antonella Barba, in her 2018 mug shot, has been sentenced to 45 months in prison in her drug case. (Photo: Norfolk Sheriff’s office)

The 32-year-old aspiring superstar pleaded guilty in July to one count of possession of more than 400 grams of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl with intent to distribute it, which typically carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years, but could have earned a lifetime sentence. However, she qualified for a “safety valve,” the Virginian-Pilot reported, meaning low-level offenders with minimum criminal records can get a break.

Prosecutors — citing Barba’s cooperation with investigators — asked for between 57 and 71 months while her defense attorneys argued for a sentence as low as 36 months.

Authorities found almost two pounds of fentanyl in Barba’s rented car when she was arrested in October 2018. Investigators had been tracking Justin Michael "Cali" Isaac of California, believing he "was a source for kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin" when Barba was arrested. A phone call they listened in on had Isaac saying he was sending a woman to deliver drugs. They stopped her car and found a shoebox of fentanyl on the passenger seat floor.

While Barba had been allowed to return to her parents’ home in New Jersey after her arrest while awaiting sentencing, she had an issue with her curfew, leading her father to decide that he no longer wanted to be her third-party custodian. On Sept. 13, she surrendered to the custody of the U.S. Marshals — and has been incarcerated since. That time served will count toward her overall sentence.

Antonella Barba attends "American Idol" Season 11 Grand Finale Show at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on May 23, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)

Barba’s father attended her sentencing, Asbury Park Press reported.

In letters sent to the court on Barba’s behalf by her family and friends, they talked about how she was the ideal child and went on to study architecture in college, but her American Idol stardom disrupted her life. She auditioned for the show and got on, but she lost and it had a devastating impact.

The letters also claimed she suffers from bipolar disorder and other mental health problems.

Barba competed on Idol in 2007, alongside eventual winner Jordin Sparks. She made it to the top 16 in Season 6. During her stint on the show, she also made headlines because of racy photographs that surfaced showing, among other things, her wearing only a wet T-shirt and underwear at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

After Idol, Barba appeared in a 2012 episode of Fear Factor and 2017’s film All About the Money. Beyond that, she performed the national anthem at a Los Angeles Dodgers game in 2018. 

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