The Smoking Gun website reported Thursday that Idol finalist Bo Bice (real name: Harold E. Bice, Jr.) had been arrested twice in Alabama on drug possession charges: once in June 2001 for possession of cocaine and once in July 2003 for possession of marijuana. Although both charges were dismissed, Bo pled guilty to public intoxication and possession of drug paraphenalia charges that arose out of the 2003 arrest and paid a total fine of $600.
According to a spokesperson for one of the district attorney's offices involved, the reason that Bo's marijuana possession charge was dismissed was that Bo completed a drug diversion program, designed to make sure that participants are "clean" and not drug dependent.
The cocaine possession charge was the most serious offense, as it represented a felony under Alabama law. The court records do not contain details of Bo's arrest. According to The Smoking Gun, Bo was arrested after purchasing about one-half gram of cocaine (which should have sold for about $75 in 2001, although the court records contains no such information) from an acquaintance at a Huntsville strip club on June 20, 2001.
Interestingly, the case was dismissed because the state's complaining witness -- a Huntsville police officer, Investigator Mike Izzo -- failed to show up at a preliminary hearing on August 22, 2001, after which the state asked for and was granted a one-week continuance, and then failed to show up again on August 29. The state asked for yet another continuance, and the prosecutors claimed that Investigator Izzo had missed the hearing because they had mistakenly supoenaed the wrong officer, but the judge decided that she and the court had given the prosecution enough chances and dismissed the charges against Bo.
The dismissal of the case under these conditions raises the question as to whether Bo might have had defenses against the charge. In a statement to The Smoking Gun, a spokesperson for the Madison County district attorney's office (which includes Huntsville) claimed that the case against Bo was going to be refiled (but was subsequently dropped after Bo went through the drug diversion program in 2003).
This claim seems dubious at best, because it is extremely rare (to say the least) for a prosecutor's office to wait two years prior to refiling. Although the case was not dismissed with prejudice (which would have meant that it could not be refiled), the combination of the elapsed time, questions about whether the prosecutors had pursued a "speedy trial" as required by the U.S. Constitution, and the prior dismissal would almost certainly doom a refiling. However, it's hard to blame the Madison County D.A.'s office for wanting to "spin" its actions.
Bo's second arrest, on July 25, 2003, took place near Birmingham. Bo was charged with three misdemeanors: second-degree possession of marijuana, public intoxication, and use or possession of drug paraphenalia. Bo quickly entered a drug-diversion program, which allowed him to seek dismissal of the second-degree possession charge. After he had passed the auditions to become an Idol semifinalist, Bo agreed on December 3, 2004 to plead guilty to the other two charges in return for the dismissal of that charge. He was sentenced to fines of $600 ($500 for possession of drug paraphenalia and $100 for public intoxication) and had to pay court costs totaling $434 ... and he was then free of his legal cloud and could join the Idol semifinals.
Bo thus joins Scott Savol (who was charged with domestic violence against the mother of his 3-week-old baby and convicted of disorderly conduct, receiving a $500 fine and a 20-day suspended jail term, and also had a prior misdemeanor trespass conviction) as the only two American Idol finalists to reach the final five with misdemeanor convictions.
The only other "final five" finalist with a prior felony arrest was American Idol 2's Trenyce, who was arrested for felony theft but, like Bo, successfully completed a pretrial diversion program, after which the charges were dropped. Trenyce, however, placed fifth, so at least one of Bo and Scott will go farther on Idol than any prior contestant who had been arrested ... as far as we know. (But there are probably other writers and bloggers scanning the arrest records of past and present Idols right this very second.)
Of course, the most famous person on Idol with a misdemeanor conviction is judge Paula Abdul, who pled "no contest" to a hit-and-run charge in March and was sentenced to a $300 fine, $600 in penalties, restitution for the damages, and a 24-month unsupervised probation. If Paula can be an Idol-maker, then it appears that Bo and Scott can be Idols.
In addition to Bo, Scott, Trenyce and Paula, other miscreants who have appeared on American Idol include (1) Idol 3 semifinalist Donnie Williams, who had been arrested for drunk driving and was dropped from the show; (2) Idol 2 finalist Corey Clark, who is currently in the center of an Idol controversy over his claim that he had "wild, drunken" sexual relations with Paula -- but who had been arrested for battery and was promptly dropped from the show when the story broke (despite any support that he may have had from Paula); (3) Idol 2 semifinalist Jaered Williams, who had been arrested for (but ultimately acquitted of) assault and was dropped from the show as a result; and (4) Idol 2 semifinalist Frenchie Davis, who had been investigated for posing for faux "kiddie porn" and was dropped from the show.
Considering that (1) Scott has survived for four weeks since his previous arrest and misdemeanor conviction became public, (2) Bo is the only member of the oddmakers' original "top four picks" to still be on the show, and (3) Bo's image is as a "rocker" -- and rockers traditionally follow a creed of sex & drugs & rock & roll (even including a tailor named Simon (!)), it seems unlikely that this revelation will make much difference to Idol voters. Then again, Idol voters have shocked the country (and even the world) before.