Celebrity scalps: If you've got drugs, don't go to Sierra Blanca...


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The Independent US

Stars from Lightnin' Hopkins to Johnny Cash have sung about the jailhouse blues. But there may soon be another tune to add to the catalogue after Grammy Award-winning singer Fiona Apple spent a night behind bars in a small Texas town noted for its celebrity scalps.

The American singer-songwriter won the Grammy for her single "Criminal" in 1996, and was treated like one on Wednesday after being arrested on suspicion of drug possession when her tour bus was searched by guards near the US-Mexico border.

Apple spent the night in custody in Sierra Blanca, whose jailhouse has also hosted Willie Nelson, the rapper Snoop Dogg and The Social Network actor Armie Hammer.

The cannabis on the singer's tour bus was discovered after sniffer dogs picked up the scent during a routine check in an area where drug stops are common thanks to the proximity of the Mexican border.

Rusty Fleming, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said that officers found "a little tiny amount of pot and hash" in a backpack during a search.

Apple closed her eyes as her mugshot was taken after she admitted the four grams of hashish were hers. Mr Fleming said the seven others on the bus were allowed to drive on after the singer's admission.

Yesterday news of her arrest sparked surprise and amusement. The rapper Frank Ocean tweeted "free Fiona", while many on the social network joked over her award-winning song lyrics: "What I need is a good defence/'Cause I'm feelin' like a criminal."

The 35-year-old was respectful and calm during her ordeal, the sheriff's spokesman said, although she did become concerned when she learnt she would have to stay overnight. She was released on Thursday after posting bail of $10,000 (roughly £6,000). Apple was due to perform in Austin later that night as part of her North American tour for her new album The Idler Wheel, but postponed the performance.

Sierra Blanca is a small town about 20 miles from the Mexican border and its jail cells have seen a few famous inmates, albeit briefly. In November, the tour bus of country music legend Willie Nelson was searched and officials found six ounces of marijuana.

The 77-year-old was charged with a misdemeanour and released after posting bail of $2,500. The county sheriff said at the time that the Sierra Blanca Border Patrol checkpoint along Interstate 10 averages up to 15 drug-related arrests a day.

It was the latest in a series of Nelson's run-ins with the law, but the first which was almost resolved with an unusual bargain. The prosecutor suggested as a joke that he pay a $100 fine and sing "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain". The judge initially agreed, but has since blocked the deal. Armie Hammer, who played both Winklevoss twins in the Facebook movie, was held for marijuana possession in the same town the same month as Nelson. The small amounts meant he was released on $1,000 bail after a day in Hudspeth County Jail. Two months later, Snoop Dogg was stopped at the checkpoint, and officials found rolled joints and containers of pot. He was released after a summons.