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Gov. Jeb Bush's daughter ordered to jail

Oct. 17, 2002 at 1:39 PM
ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Noelle Bush, daughter of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and niece of President Bush, was sentenced to 10 days in the Orange County jail Thursday for violating the conditions of her court-ordered drug treatment by allegedly possessing crack cocaine.

Noelle Bush was held in contempt of court by Circuit Judge Reginald Whitehead.

Bush, 25, has been at the Center for Drug Free Living in Orlando since February. She was arrested in January at Tallahassee, Fla., for allegedly trying to buy Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, with a fake prescription.

Another patient at the center called police on Sept. 9 to report the alleged crack possession. Center employees refused to talk with investigators, citing federal laws mandating client confidentiality.

Media outlets challenged those laws, but on Sept. 30 Circuit Judge Belvin Perry Jr. ruled that Congress intended to shield drug abusers from public scrutiny while they sought treatment.

Perry pointed out that since the Orlando-based drug court program receives federal money, it must comply with federal law as well. He ruled that Bush's case will remain in drug court and the center's staff should continue its confidentiality policy. This is believed to be the first such ruling in the United States.

In court Thursday, Bush apologized to Whitehead for her actions. Her attorney Peter Antonacci sought leniency, reminding the judge that her drug tests have all been negative.

"I don't think you need me to tell you that what you did was wrong," Whitehead said to Bush.

He told her she needed to learn from her mistake and pointed out that she could have been charged with a new felony offense and automatically removed from the drug court's jurisdiction.

She was handcuffed in the courtroom and taken directly to jail. She will return to the drug treatment program after serving her time.

"Words cannot express the sadness that Columba and I feel about what has happened with our daughter Noelle today," Jeb Bush said in a statement. "Nonetheless, as governor, but most importantly as her father, I know she must face the consequences of her actions. This is a very difficult time for all of us who love her, and Columba and I pray every day our beautiful daughter will once again know a life free from the horrors of substance abuse."

Earlier this week, Whitehead denied a request from Bush's attorneys that her drug court hearings be closed to the public, saying the drug court was the same as a criminal court.

This is the second time Bush has been jailed for violating the conditions of her treatment. In July, Whitehead sentenced her to three days in jail for contempt of court for violating center rules. It is believed she had prescription drugs taken from a nurse's station.

The patient who reported the alleged crack possession said Bush is allowed to break rules regularly and is treated like a "princess" because she is the governor's daughter. Center officials deny it, saying all patients are treated the same.

Gov. Bush is currently running for re-election. He and the president were in New Smyrna Beach Thursday on a campaign visit.

A Florida law passed in 2001 set up a pre-trial intervention program through drug courts to enable alleged drug offenders to get treatment under court supervision with regular testing to determine whether they remained drug free.

Topics: Jeb Bush
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