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Ex-Idol Jessica Sierra headed back to rehab

TAMPA — Jessica Sierra returned to a Hillsborough County courtroom Monday to resolve a problem with her probation transfer to California, where she is receiving drug treatment at a rehab facility.

California probation officials say Florida violated an interstate compact by allowing Sierra, 22, to go to California without prior approval from probation officials there.

The one-time American Idol finalist flew back to Florida so she can process the paperwork from here before returning.

John Fitzgibbons, Sierra's attorney, told Hillsborough Circuit Judge Daniel Perry that a compromise between California and Florida officials had been reached.

Florida Department of Correction officials agreed to send an e-mail to California authorities by the end of the day Monday to expedite Sierra's probation transfer request.

Fitzgibbons said he hoped to have the issue resolved and Sierra back in rehab in Pasadena, Calif., by the end of week.

Just in case, Perry scheduled a status hearing for Friday morning.

"Right now, it's just red tape and bureaucracy," said Fitzgibbons, who noted that Sierra has been sober for 99 days. "But I'm happy that Jessica is doing so well. Her prognosis is getting better and better every day."

Sierra's grandparents and a program director from the rehab clinic accompanied her to court.

"We're very happy with the progress she's making and we're focused on her complete recovery," said Sierra's grandmother, Betty Sierra.

Jessica Sierra received probation in November after being charged with battery and cocaine possession, accused of throwing a cocktail glass at a Hyde Park Cafe patron's head and having the drug in her purse.

A drunken episode in Ybor City in December caused her to violate the terms of her probation and face new charges of disorderly intoxication and obstructing an officer without violence.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Ex-Idol Jessica Sierra headed back to rehab 03/10/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 11, 2008 2:09am]
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