Ex-'Idol' finalist Jessica Sierra granted travel permit to CA for treatment
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 01/10/2008
An unsupervised Jessica Sierra is apparently on the move.
Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Perry granted the former American Idolfourth-season finalist a 45-day travel permit so she can immediately begin receiving treatment at the Pasadena Recovery Center in California, The Tampa Tribunereported Thursday.
The travel permit is necessary because while the treatment center is ready and willing to take her in, Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi told The Tribune that the California Department of Probation had decided it would not accept Sierra's probation transfer request on an emergency basis. Instead, the department will only consider Sierra's transfer on "a nonemergency basis," a process that could take up to 45 days, according to The Tribune.
Perry sentenced Sierra on Monday morning to a yearlong stint at an in-house drug treatment facility in California -- followed by three years probation -- for disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest without violence and probation violation charges that stemmed from a December arrest.
In addition, Perry had specifically stated he didn't want Sierra to use treatment as a way to aid her celebrity status and thus "glamorize" being a drug addict.
At the time of her December arrest, Sierra had already been on probation due to an April incident in which she was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, possession of cocaine and introduction of contraband into a detention facility. She had pleaded no contest to felony drug and battery charges and been sentenced to 12-months probation and random drug screening less than two weeks before new December arrest.
Since California officials hadn't already agreed to her probation transfer request, Sierra would have been in violation of her probation if she had entered the Pasadena treatment center without the travel permit.
When she left Falkenburg Road Jail on Wednesday morning expecting to meet her probation officer and father to travel from Tampa International Airport to California, she learned of the California Department of Probation's decision to not transfer her on an emergency basis, Bondi told The Tribune. Instead, she was reportedly instructed to spend Wednesday night at her family's home in Tampa.
Perry asked Sierra on Thursday if she consumed alcohol or took drugs while out of jail on Wednesday night, to which she replied no, according to The Tribune.
Sierra also upset Perry immediately after she left the jail on Wednesday, as The Tribune reported she "smiled and waved" to the media awaiting her release and said she was "excited" to get out of the pokey and go to rehab -- a violation of Perry's Monday comments that he didn't want to see Sierra doing media interviews.
"You are not a celebrity; you are a drug addict," Perry told Sierra on Thursday, adding "microphones are a magnet" for the often-troubled former Idol starlet, according to The Tribune.
To ensure Sierra keeps her distance from reporters, Perry formally ordered she stay at least 100 yards away from microphones and cameras on Thursday, The Tribune reported.
Sierra was arrested December 1 on the aforementioned charges after she was booted from Ybor City's Full Moon Salon and allegedly became physically and verbally combative with police. She subsequently pleaded not guilty to the charges and was ordered to remain in prison without bail on probation violation charges "at least" until her hearing, which was scheduled for December 20.
However a judge decided to continue the case on December 14, resulting in Sierra remaining in the slammer until her Monday morning arraignment.
As a condition of Sierra's 45-day travel permit, Perry said if California officials do not allow her to stay in the state by end of the 45 day period, she will have to return to Florida, The Tribune reported. Sierra's attorney John Fitzgibbons is hoping that doesn't happen.
"There's no place around here like this place," Fitzgibbons told Perry about the Pasadena Recovery Center, according to The Tribune. "This is an opportunity of a lifetime for her."
Perry also questioned Fitzgibbons about Sierra's pregnancy and if it would impact her treatment.
"Their professionals know how to handle this," Fitzgibbons told Perry, The Tribune reported. "It's not unusual for them."
While Sierra will have to avoid the media spotlight for the foreseeable future, that doesn't mean she won't be accessible to her remaining fans. She's one of the subjects documented in VH1's new Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew reality series, which is scheduled to premiere tonight and will follow David Drew "Dr. Drew" Pinsky as he chronicles the detoxification and treatment of several celebrities.
In addition, Vivid Entertainment is preparing to release a sex tape starring Sierra -- titled Jessica Sierra Superstar -- on January 30.