Former 'American Idol' Contestant Antonella Barba Facing 10 Years In Jail For Selling Fentanyl

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Who Is Antonella Barba? New Details On The Former 'American Idol' Contestant Convicted Of Selling Fentanyl

Antonella Barba was hoping for a career as a big-time musician when she went on American Idol in 2007. She grew up playing the violin and piano and hoped the television talent show would be her springboard to a music career. However, she was voted out without making it to the finals and returned to college to study architecture. In the years since Idol, she has tried her hand at acting, music production, and has been in a few bands. 

But everything went sour for her last fall when she was arrested in Virginia with a whole lot of drugs in her possession. Cops originally said she was busted for heroin but eventually fans learned that she was carrying cocaine, heroin and fentanyl, all in quantities sufficient to get her charged with intent to distribute.

Now Barba has taken a plea deal and is waiting on sentencing. Who is Antonella Barba and why was she dealing drugs? Read on for all the details. 

1. Creative and Musical

Barba grew up in New Jersey where she started playing the violin at the age of four. She performed in talent shows and in choirs as she was growing up. She headed off to college to study architecture in Washington D.C. before taking a break to audition for the sixth season of American Idol. She was 19-years-old when she made it on to the talent show. 

Barba performed the national anthem at a baseball game in 2015.

2. American Idol performances

Once she got onto Idol, she performed a wide variety of songs and styles, including  Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing", Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me", and Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On." She didn't get a lot of love from the judges, however, and was voted off the show after making it to the top 16. Jordin Sparks was the ultimate winner of that season. 

She made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel in 2018.

3. Nude photo scandal

Barba's Idol stint was tarnished by the revelation of racy photos midway through her season. The pics included her posing topless and in a wet t-shirt and, at the time, Barba said they had been stolen from her computer. She allegedly warned producers that they were about to leak and said: "That is not how I intended to portray myself nor do I intend to portray myself that way in the future." She was allowed to stay on the show but she got caught in blowback when critics noted that a previous contestant, Frenchie Davis, had been dropped from the cast in a similar scandal the second season. Davis and others intimated that racism played a role in why the two women were treated differently in the wake of similar scandals. Producers claimed that the difference was because Davis had been paid for her photos, where Barba had not. After the scandal, Barba got offered to host a Girls Gone Wild video, an offer to do Playboy, and a VH1 reality show, which she turned down. She posted to Instagram detailing how she felt that Hugh Hefner had stood up for her at a time when no one else would.

Barba felt that Hugh Hefner was an ally.
 

4. 2018 drug arrest

Barba claimed to regret turning down reality tv opportunities after Idol and perhaps she is right to feel that way. After years of trying to make a career in music and acting, she seems to have chosen illegal drug sales instead. In 2018, she was busted by cops outside a hotel in Norfolk, Virginia. People reports that she was initially arrested for allegedly selling or intending to sell 100 grams or more of heroin. 

In police reports, authorities say cops approached her car based on a tip, then “A dog handler screened Barba’s rental vehicle with a drug dog...The canine officer searched Barba’s rental vehicle and discovered a closed shoebox in plain view on the front passenger floorboard.”

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The statement goes on to report: "The officer opened the shoebox and discovered a plastic bag containing a large quantity of a white, rock-like substance. Barba subsequently admitted she had landed at Washington-Dulles at around 4:00 p.m. on a flight from Los Angeles, and that she rented a car there and drove to Norfolk. The substance seized from Barba’s rental car was submitted to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Savannah Laboratory for forensic analysis, where a forensic scientist determined the substance to be fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, with a total weight of 830.9 grams.”

She had large quantities of drugs in her car. 

5. Taking a plea

Though Barba initially pleaded not guilty in Virginia Court, the case was eventually handed over to federal authorities and multiple charges were added to her offenses, Yahoo News reports. In addition to the possession charges, she faces counts of conspiracy and intent to distribute. She finally agreed to a plea deal and now faces carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court. She could face a possible life sentence and up to $10 million in fines, as well as asset forfeiture.

Barba will be sentenced in November.

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6. Part of the opiate crisis

The reason for the severe charges may be how powerful fentanyl is and how much federal authorities want to stop the trafficking of the opioid. Originally developed as a pain medication for cancer patients, the drug is 80-100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency website. Fentanyl is highly lethal — only three milligrams can be enough to kill an adult, according to Stat. It can be added to heroin to increase its potency but doing so often leads to overdoes. The CDC estimates that nearly 19,000 people overdosed due to fentanyl in 2016.

Opioid overdoses are on the rise.

Barba will be formally sentenced in November. She has been staying with her parents in New Jersey while she waits to learn her fate. 

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.