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Bush niece jailed for 10 days

Orlando (Florida), Oct. 17 (Reuters): Noelle Bush, a niece of President George W. Bush, was sent to jail in handcuffs for 10 days today after cocaine was allegedly found in her shoe at her court-ordered drug rehabilitation programme.

Bush, 25, who is the daughter of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, was led away from an Orange County courtroom to begin serving her second drug-related sentence this year.

It was the latest set-back in a series of much-publicised drug problems and came on the same day the President was in Florida campaigning for his brother, who faces a close race for re-election in November.

Circuit judge Reginald Whitehead held Noelle Bush in contempt of court after police investigated allegations that a lump of crack cocaine was found in her shoe in September at the Center for Drug-Free Living.

“I am disappointed. You let a lot of people down,” the judge told her. “What’s important is, you shouldn’t let yourself down ... I am also disappointed because I know you can do the programme.” Noelle Bush was ordered into a rehabilitation programme at the centre after her January arrest on charges of using a false prescription to try to buy the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, which some cocaine users take to come down from their high.

Noelle Bush was sent to jail for three days in July for contempt of court after she was found with an unauthorised prescription drug, in violation of the terms of her treatment programme. “I sincerely apologise for what happened,” she told the judge today. “I promise to do well at the Center for Drug-Free Living from now on.”

She was accompanied in court by her aunt, Dorothy Koch.

Her lawyer, Peter Antonacci, asked for leniency and said she passed tests showing she had no illegal drugs in her system.

Under Florida’s “drug court” programme, Noelle Bush must complete the rehabilitation programme in order to avoid prosecution on the felony drug charge from her initial arrest in January. The programme stresses breaking the addiction and requires the defendant to undergo counselling and treatment for at least a year.

It also requires her to make regular court appearances to measure her progress. Her attorneys had asked earlier this month to close the hearings to the public because of the publicity the case has attracted.

Whitehead refused, ruling on Tuesday that open access was a critical part of the success of the drug court programme. But the court ruled last month that staff at the drug center where Bush is being treated could not be forced to answer questions in a police investigation of the cocaine possession allegations.

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