Looks like Jaered told the truth.

The Associated Press reports that American Idol contestant Jaered Andrews, 24, who was disqualified from Idol after being selected as one of the 32 semifinalists, was found not guilty of assault yesterday after a jury trial in Mercer, PA over the November 16, 2002 death of 39-year-old Thomas Blakely in a fight outside a bar in Farrell, PA. The jury deliberated only about two hours before rendering its verdict.

After the acquittal was handed down, Jaered, from Austintown, Ohio, declined further comment. However, as we reported in our March 2003 report, the determining factor in the verdict appeared to be Blakely's sexually-oriented aggression toward a young female employee who had passed out at the bar and who was an acquaintance of Jaered's.

As the police report described, Blakely and Jaered subsequently had a confrontation outside the bar. Jaered punched Blakely in the face, and Blakely then fell, hit his head on the pavement, and died from the skull injuries. Jaered was charged with assault (instead of murder or manslaughter) because the prosecution concluded that he did not intend to cause severe bodily harm to Blakely.

Jaered apparently fully disclosed the incident to Fox and the American Idol producers, and he was permitted to continue on the show. When he was charged with assault in January, though, Fox first waited to see if he'd qualify to continue ... and then booted him from the show when he did, apparently leery of the bad publicity that could result from the disclosure of this case. At the time, Fox claimed that it took action because Jaered had once been a member of the Youngstown-based hip-hop group Ordinary Peoples. However, The Smoking Gun subsequently learned the truth.

For Jaered's sake, we're glad that he won't end up singing in "the prison choir" and will instead be able to sing "out loud and humbly proud for all ears to witness, through my voice, that God can keep you and comfort you even when enemies seek to destroy you," as he wished.