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Former "American Idol" and "Fear Factor" contestant Antonella Barba has pleaded guilty to possession of at least 400 grams of fentanyl with intent to sell. Veuer's Mercer Morrison has the story. Buzz60

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Driven and intensely devoted, Antonella Barba was a perfectionist: hours of violin practice at the age of 4, near perfect grades in high school, all-nighters studying architecture in college.

And it was that drive that led the young Point Pleasant woman to the world’s stage for a few weeks in 2007 when Barba became a sensation on one of the country’s most popular television shows.

But signs of trouble turned up in the "American Idol" alumna.

Barba suffered from bipolar disorder and other mental health problems throughout her life, according to a court document.

And she also suffered from her success on the "American Idol" singing competition show.

“The world intruded and interrupted her … dream of a career in architecture,” her mother, Valerie Barba, wrote in a letter to the court. And that, Barba’s mother continued, is “where it all went wrong.”

That complex picture of the 32-year-old Barba emerged as she is about to be sentenced to federal prison, scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Virginia. Authorities found nearly two pounds of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl in her rented car in October 2018. The drug has claimed the lives of thousands of Americans.

More: 'American Idol' alum Antonella Barba back in jail after father resigns as custodian

In their argument for a sentence of as low as three years, Barba's attorney has included excerpts from letters written to the court by family and friends.

Barba's life was a straight upward line of achievement from when she was a 4-year-old violinist to her attendance at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

While at college, Barba continued to sharpen her skills as a musician, trying out for "American Idol" with a friend.

At 19 in March 2007, she made it to the top 16 in Season 6 of "American Idol."

But after "American Idol," things deteriorated for Barba,

She continued her studies and graduated from Catholic University.

But a move to Hollywood to continue her career as an entertainer “was a recipe for disaster,” a friend only identified as K.J. wrote. When Barba could not “achieve the results she wanted, it was devastating to her.”

But that followed a pattern, friends and family said.

"In reality, because she functioned at a high-level with such single-mindedness, and was so hard on herself, other shortcomings were masked," wrote her friend, K.J. "If her successes weren't big enough by her standards, she overworked herself. Antonella drove herself relentlessly to accomplish her goal and then (fell) apart."

Things didn't pan out for Barba in Hollywood.

In 2018, Barba was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, according to a court document.

"To many, including her mother, these diagnoses were like finding the lost piece of a puzzle," her attorney, James O. Broccoletti, wrote in the court filing.

In July, Barba pleaded guilty to one count of possession of more than 400 grams of fentanyl with intent to distribute it, a charge that carries up to a life sentence.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a term of between 57 and 71 months – nearly five years – citing federal guidelines.

But Barba’s attorneys are calling for a sentence to between 37 and 46 months, saying Barba was a bit player — a courier — in a much wider drug trafficking conspiracy.

Ken Serrano has covered crime and breaking news in New Jersey for more than 20 years. Reach him at 732-643-4029 or at kserrano@gannettnj.com

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