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Jay Nolan, Tampa Tribune
By THOMAS W. KRAUSE
The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA - With long blond and black locks hanging over the shoulders of her tight, peach-colored dress, Jessica Sierra walked into the Hillsborough County courthouse Monday morning to answer charges that she struck a man’s head with a cocktail glass.
Sierra, a Tampa resident who was a top-10 contestant on “American Idol,” has made several appearances at the courthouse – as both a victim and as a defendant – since her 2005 stint on the talent-seeking TV show.
On Monday, the 21-year-old pleaded not guilty to a felony battery charge stemming from an April 29 arrest at Hyde Park Café. Bar patron Wisam Hadad said Sierra threw the glass at him. Tampa police reports stated that he sustained a 3/4-inch gash over his right eyebrow. Hadad told reporters he assumed Sierra thought he was someone else.
Sierra told police that Hadad spat on her but later clarified that she couldn’t be sure it was Hadad. A lawsuit filed against the nightclub and Sierra is pending.
When police booked Sierra into the jail, her legal problems worsened. Police said she had 0.8 grams of cocaine in her purse and added charges of cocaine possession and introduction of contraband into a detention facility.
On Monday, Circuit Judge William Fuente set trial dates for October. Sierra’s attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said he hoped the charges could be resolved amicably.
Asked for comment, Sierra smiled as she walked away.
“Just thanking all my fans for being here to support me,” she said.
Joining Sierra at the courthouse were Fitzgibbons, her stepmother and several journalists. No fans seemed to be present.
Later, Fitzgibbons said Sierra has received many phone calls and letters of support. When she has been out in public, he said, fans have approached her to offer kind words about her legal woes.
Sierra’s first trip to the courthouse since her celebrity came in January 2006. She testified against a California man who was charged with stalking after he had flown to Tampa in an attempt to meet her. The man had claimed to be a record producer and made hundreds of calls to Sierra’s cell phone.
Last month, Sierra’s name again appeared in legal papers.
A rental car agency filed a report with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office that said Sierra owed them money for a car she had not returned. Sheriff’s reports state that Sierra owed for two weeks at about $500 per week. She returned the car after the report was filed.
Sierra’s lawyer said the young singer is hoping to have funds together in the next week or two to pay off the debt.
Reporter Thomas W. Krause can be reached at (813)259-7698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.