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Sierra Pleads Not Guilty

VIDEOS: Arrest | Jail | Court AUDIO: Phone Call From Jail Read The Report | Previous Coverage TAMPA - Fallen "American Idol" star Jessica Sierra stood in a courtroom this morning, trying in vain to cover the worried look on her face with her long brown hair.
Jessica Sierra Her attorney, John Fitzgibbons, told Circuit Judge Daniel Perry that he wasn't ready to directly address the charges against Sierra but would enter a not guilty plea on her behalf to the misdemeanor charges of disorderly intoxication and resisting an officer without violence. The charges stem from a run-in she had with three officers early Saturday outside an Ybor City nightclub. Fitzgibbons also said that for now he would deny that Sierra, 22, violated probation. He said he predicts that ultimately Sierra will not protest the charges. Perry set a hearing for Dec. 20. Sierra will remain in jail at least until that hearing. She is being held without bail on the probation violation allegation. Outside the courthouse, Fitzgibbons said Sierra has "talents" but also "demons." He said he is trying to put together plans with doctors for a comprehensive drug and alcohol program. "Ultimately I think the criminal justice system wants people to get help," Fitzgibbons said. Asked whether he would request bail for Sierra at the hearing Dec. 20, Fitzgibbons shrugged. "It depends on what the experts tell me," he said. According to police reports, Sierra was kicked out of Full Moon Saloon in Ybor City. Outside the club, Sierra continued to cause a disturbance by trying to get back in and harassing patrons on the street, authorities said. When police intervened, she became combative, they said. In a police car, reports state, she vomited, cursed and offered a sexual favor to an officer if he would release her. She used a racial slur against the officer, a word sometimes aimed at blacks. The officer is white. In a recorded phone conversation Sierra made from jail, released by prosecutors Thursday, she sounds irritated but sober. The call was recorded at 9:19 a.m. Saturday, about seven hours after she was booked. Sierra speaks loudly but does not slur her words as she talks to a woman she calls Aunt Sheila. Public records show a Sheila Baxter living at the home owned by Sierra's grandparents. Sierra asks whether anyone has spoken to her father. "He's livid," the woman says. Sierra seems shocked, says she doesn't care about the charges and several times says she didn't do anything wrong. "Well, that's not necessarily what really happened," says the exasperated woman. She says Sierra fought with a friend. "I didn't fight nobody but the police," Sierra says, calling them "stupid" and "Crackers." Sierra says police are alleging disorderly intoxication but "everybody's intoxicated in Ybor." "You're not supposed to be," the woman says. Sierra, who grew up in Tampa, was a 2005 Top 10 finalist on "American Idol." After a felony battery arrest in April at a Hyde Park nightclub, she was placed on probation. Her attorney said she had completed a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in California that was filmed and is scheduled to be aired on VH1 in January as a reality show: "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew." After her previous arrest, she pleaded no contest to felony battery. Police said used a bar glass to hit a man. Sierra at first claimed the man had spit on her. She later said she might have mistaken him for someone else. On the Web site for "American Idol," Sierra has a personal page where she says in a video interview that she did not meet her mother until she was 13 years old. She was raised by her grandparents. In August 2004, just weeks before Sierra auditioned for "American Idol," her mother died of a drug overdose. Her mother, Christine Sierra, had arrests and convictions for prostitution and drug charges dating to 1990. In a questionnaire on the Web site, Sierra lists her grandmother as her inspiration and hero. She also writes that people would be surprised to know that she is not as strong as she comes off. "I have a lot of disappointment in my past that I have always tried to overcome on my own using music as my only release," she writes. Getting past her mother's death, she writes, has been her greatest obstacle in life. Asked about her definition of an "American Idol," Sierra writes that it is someone blessedwith the opportunity to share music with the world. "They are also a role model to those who have their own hopes and dreams of becoming an American Idol," Sierra writes, "whether it be singing or any of other various talents."

Reporter Thomas W. Krause can be reached at (813) 259-7698 or [email protected]

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