Antonella Barba is a 32-year-old professional musician and former American Idol contestant who was arrested for possession of 2 lbs. of fentanyl in October 2018. She pleaded guilty to one count of possession of more than 400 grams of fentanyl with intent to distribute it and is facing 10 years to life in prison.
According to The Virginian Pilot, Barba was allegedly directed by a man named Justin Michael Isaac to transport about 830 grams of fentanyl, to an unnamed person. Investigators waited outside a stash house in the 500 block of Duke St. and at around 11:05 p.m. they spotted Barba in a car alone. When they approached her vehicle, they discovered the drugs in a shoebox on the floorboard in front of the passenger seat.
A statement from Federal prosecutors added, “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.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Overdoses are much more common with users and the drug has claimed thousands of lives during the ongoing American opioid crisis.
She was allegedly a player in a drug conspiracy that was active in Hampton Roads, Virginia from late 2017 through the fall of 2018, according to The Blast. Her lawyers argue that she was ignorant of her role in the crime and the larger operation.
“Ms. Barba had very little if any insight into the scope and structure of this conspiracy. In fact, prior to receiving the package, she did not know the type of substance or the quantity she was to deliver,” the court filing argues. “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.”
Following her arrest, Barba was bailed out of jail by her father and she was ordered to live at her parent’s home in Point Pleasant, NJ until her sentencing. Her father acted as her custodian during her release but signed an order in September 2019 saying that he told a probation officer Sept. 5 that he wanted to resign, according to court records.
Her family tried to get another person to be her custodian but ultimately decided against it. United States Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leonard wrote that “Absent a third-party custodian, defendant cannot meet her conditions of release.” Barba’s attorney, Randall Leeman, said that Barba voluntarily turned herself in on September 2019.
Antonella Barba was one of the breakout stars of American Idol season 6, the second highest-rated season in the show’s history, and made it into the top 16 before being voted off.
Barba was sentenced on November 21 to 45 months in federal prison after pleading guilty in July to 10 drug charges, according to her attorney James Broccoletti.
“The case is over,” Broccoletti explains. “My client accepted responsibility and the judge was very fair — very concerned about her. Because she knows what’s happening, there’s now closure to this part of her life. It’s been liberating [for her]. She is able to have a concrete understanding of where she is and where she’s going next. With all things considered, she’s in the best place she can be emotionally and psychologically.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Her Mother Blames American Idol for Her Drug Addiction
According to court documents obtained by Fox News, Antonella and her family blame American Idol for causing her addiction problems.
“One of the common themes is that the ‘American Idol’ experience brought about a detrimental change in Ms. Barba’s life,” the court documents read.
After Barba became popular on the show, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. In a letter to the court, her mother called the move “a recipe for disaster.” and said losing American Idol “was devastating to her,” and started Antonella on a downward spiral.
“The world intruded and interrupted her … dream of a career in architecture,” her mother, Valerie Barba, wrote, and claims that the TV show is “where it all went wrong.”
“Indeed, those that have known Ms. Barba the longest struggle with the question of just how the kind, quiet, pious and immensely talented girl who they watched with such reverence as she grew up, finds herself facing sentencing in a federal drug case,” the plea for mercy says.
Barba’s friend, known as “K.J.” in the court documents, said that the problems run much deeper than American Idol. In 2018, Barba was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, issues that were masked by her success.
“In reality, because she functioned at a high-level with such single-mindedness, and was so hard on herself, other shortcomings were masked,” wrote K.J. “If her successes weren’t big enough by her standards, she overworked herself. Antonella drove herself relentlessly to accomplish her goal and then (fell) apart.”
Barba’s “possession with intent to distribute charge” carries up to a life sentence, but Federal prosecutors are seeking a term of between 57 and 71 months, citing federal guidelines.
2. Antonella Barba Got Voted off American Idol After Naked Photos of Her Surfaced Online
Right before the final 12 contestants were selected on American Idol, controversial naked photos of Barba leaked online. The photos caused a minor uproar with Idol fans as some of them show Barba posing nude in the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The racy photos were allegedly stolen from her laptop at Catholic University.
The photos show her posing topless, hands covering her breasts, and on the toilet. There were additional photos released that showed a brunette engaged in various sex acts with an unidentified man. Her friend Amanda Coluccio told the Houston Chronicle that the topless photos were taken for a calendar she made for her boyfriend of several years and that the sex photos were not Antonella.
“I’ve studied them. It’s not her nose. She’s never had (acrylic nail) tips in her life. She’s the least slutty person I know.” She said.
Producers of the show investigated the photos and said that they did not constitute enough to remove Barba from the show. She was voted off the following episode.
3. She’s Been Arrested Before for Felony Marijuana Possession and Shoplifting
According to The Virginian-Pilot, Antonella Barba has an ongoing felony case involving marijuana in Kansas.
Barba was also charged in 2010 with shoplifting after she allegedly walked off with less than $20 worth of goods from an Urban Outfitters in New York City. Authorities charged her with two misdemeanors and ordered her to serve one day of community service, according to the New York Post.
4. Her Last Public Performance Was on Jimmy Kimmel Live Where She Sang with Former American Idol Contestants
Jimmy Kimmel brought together the most memorable American Idol contestants for an unofficial reunion. The segment parodies the star-studded “We Are The World” performance by U.S.A. for Africa back in 1985 which featured superstar performers Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and Billy Joel among others.
In this version, the biggest stars and sideshows that were voted off American Idol come together to sing their parody version of “We Are the World” titled “Where are they now?”
The performance featured terrible but lovable performers such as William Hung, Sanjaya, and the “Chewbacca Girl” alongside runner-ups like Reuben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, and Barba. The contestants all sing about the details of their regular lives since they left the TV show.
Before appearing on Kimmel, Barba’s last appearance on TV was a 2012 episode of the show Fear Factor.
5. She’s Never Released a Full Album
Despite moving to Los Angeles to start her music career in 2007, Antonella has never released a full-length album. She’s released a collection of 10 songs on her SoundCloud page including an original single titled “Cocaine Heartbreak” and a few song covers including “Hotline Bling” and “Take Care” by Drake.
She has a website that’s been “under construction” since 2015 with a form to sign up for her mailing list but no updates on her music.