The singer's life crumbled after she was voted off the show, her mother testified in documents filed prior to Thursday's hearing

By Chris Harris
November 21, 2019 11:24 AM

Antonella Barba, a singer who made it to the top 16 on the sixth season of American Idol back in 2007, was sentenced today to 45 months in federal prison after pleading guilty in July to 10 drug charges, her attorney, James Broccoletti, tells PEOPLE.

Barba, 32, appeared in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Virginia, on Thursday, where she learned her punishment for trying to deliver nearly two pounds of fentanyl to a stash house in Virginia back in October 2018.

Ahead of Thursday’s sentencing, Barba, through a friend, declined PEOPLE’s request for an interview.

Prior to the hearing, Broccoletti had filed paperwork in court, contending his client — a first-time offender — should receive a light sentence.

Norfolk Sheriff's Office

The filing, obtained by Fox News, argues Barba fell victim to the pitfalls of the fame she experienced after her run on the long-running reality show.

RELATED: American Idol Season 6 Standout Antonella Barba Arrested for Allegedly Distributing Heroin

“One of the common themes is that the American Idol experience brought about a detrimental change in Ms. Barba’s life,” the filing states.

Antonella Barba during her audition

The papers also include testimony from Barba’s mother, who indicated her daughter’s abrupt move to Los Angeles after her time on American Idol was “a recipe for disaster.” In addition, the mother apparently said being voted off of the signing competition “was devastating to her,” derailing her dreams and leading her down a primrose path, leading to her arrest in 2018.

Barba’s attorneys sought a sentence of between 37 and 46 months in federal prison. She faced a maximum of a life sentence.

RELATED: American Idol Season 6 Standout Antonella Barba Allegedly Smuggled 2 lbs. of Fentanyl for Drug Ring

The plea deal was orchestrated four months after Barba was indicted on 11 federal charges, including one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine, heroin and fentanyl with the intent to distribute and 10 counts of distribution or possession of cocaine, heroin and fentanyl with the intent to distribute.

Barba, also a former Fear Factor contestant, was arrested by undercover agents with the fentanyl, which authorities said she was delivering to her boss in Norfolk, Virginia.

The New Jersey native — now living in Los Angeles — has been living at her parents’ home since the indictment.

Barba was initially arrested in Norfolk in October 2018 for selling or intending to sell 100 grams or more of heroin. She pleaded not guilty to that charge.

According to a statement from federal prosecutors, released in the wake of her arrest, Barba was sitting in a parked rental car “when she was approached by law enforcement” acting on a tip.

“A dog handler screened Barba’s rental vehicle with a drug dog, which alerted on the vehicle. The canine officer searched Barba’s rental vehicle and discovered a closed shoebox in plain view on the front passenger floorboard.”

The statement adds: “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.”

RELATED: American Idol Season 6 Standout Antonella Barba Faces Minimum 10-Year Sentence Over Fentanyl Arrest

Barba was an American Idol hopeful in the same season that saw Jordin Sparks crowned the eventual winner.

After Idol, Barba returned to college and earned her architecture degree. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly in 2009, she said she was working on a forthcoming album.

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She said then: “I know the buzz might not be the same as it was in 2007, but it amazes me — almost two years later, I still get recognized!”

In 2012, she appeared on an episode of Fear Factor. She, along with many other former Idol stars, also participated in a “We Are the World” parody on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in May 2017.

Broccoletti tells PEOPLE Barba will get credit for the three months she served in federal custody following her initial arrest. With good behavior, the attorney says she could potentially knock another seven months off of her sentence. If she completes a 500-hour residential drug treatment program, recommended by the court, her sentence could be reduced by another 12 months.

“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.”

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