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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 6

Ex-'Idol' finalist Sanjaya Malakar's family has marijuana farming past

By Christopher Rocchio, 04/27/2007 

If former American Idol finalist Sanjaya Malakar had made it any further in the sixth season, he might have sported some dreadlocks as his next creative coif.

Malakar's mom Jillian Blith as well as his stepfather Charles Quist were both arrested and charged with unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance in February 2005 in Federal Way, WA after the Pierce County Sheriff's Department found 310 marijuana plants in the family's garage, reported Wednesday.  The bust was apparently a family affair, as Malakar's then 17-year-old sister Shyamali -- who was ousted from Idol's sixth season prior to the competition's semifinals -- was also arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance. 

According to Blith's charging document, "concerned citizens" near the family's house called police in late January 2005 after they had "smelled the odor of marijuana" and also saw her "install a large vent on the roof of the garage."  Neighbors also reported the family spent much of their time at the house in the garage and added they appeared to be using "an extraordinary amount of power" based on their electricity meter reading.

In mid-February, officers approached the Malakar's Federal Way compound and "smelled the odor of growing marijuana" and observed that the garage's windows were covered and painted over.  After records obtained by the sheriff's department confirmed the family was using an unusual amount of electricity, a search warrant was obtained and the 310 plants were found, according to the document.  But Blith and Quist were nowhere to be found, so Shyamali, who apparently had been entrusted with overseeing the operation, was arrested and charged.

According to the government documents, Shyamali then ratted her mom and stepfather out, telling the sheriff's department they were at another residence in Federal Way.  Police went to the second location, again "smelled the odor of marijuana outside the house," obtained a second search warrant, and found another "marijuana grow operation."

Since Blith pled guilty to one felony count of unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance, she could have been put behind bars for as long as five years, but reported she somehow only received a relatively minor 30-day jail sentence.  In addition to being charged with possession of a controlled substance -- 40 grams or less of marijuana -- Shyamali was also booked for unlawful use of drug paraphernalia. 

There's no mention of Malakar, who was 15 at the time of his family's bust, in any of the three court documents obtained by   However he's previously stated that he was close to his mom and sister since his parents divorced when he was 3-years-old, and has also acknowledged that his mother's been influential in his life.

"It was actually my mom's idea to get the GED and focus on [my singing career], because I had a little bit of trouble in school," Malakar told reporters during the media conference call that followed his recent Idol elimination.  "Not because I didn't know the material.  I just didn't really do my homework, which the horrible habit that I had.  I wanted to get my GED so that I could move on and focus on what I really wanted to do, which was music."

During the same call, Malakar also said his mom is currently an "independent employee."

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