Convicted Armed Robber Released Early After Impressing Judges on Georgian TV Talent Show

Teona Kolbaia sung a prayer set to music on the local version of 'The Voice.'

A convicted armed robber who was allowed out of prison to take part in the Georgian version of talent show The Voice has been granted her freedom after making it almost as far as the quarter finals.

Teona Kolbaia impressed judges with her singing, performing Kyrie Eleison, a version of a Catholic and Orthodox prayer or petition for mercy that was set to music.

Dressed in a simple blue evening gown — the same color as the uniforms of the two prison officers who had escorted her on stage — the petite brunette left the audience of the popular talent contest transfixed.

Kolbaia, who had been convicted of a 2012 heist when she and a male accomplice robbed a taxi driver in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, threatening him with a fake pistol before making off with cash, mobile phones and his car, had been allowed out of prison to attend auditions and recordings of the television show after prison officials recognized her talent.

At the end of the show, aired on Georgia's Imedi channel just before Christmas, the former Soviet state's prisons minister Kakha Kakhishvili strode on stage to tell her that, although she been beaten by another contestant, a parole board was so impressed by the rehabilitation displayed by her TV appearances that he was cutting her sentence short.

"We've been keeping a close eye on her," the minister told the audience, as he thanked the show for helping her reintegrate into society.

The shock on the young woman's face was evident as she tearfully vowed "to use this opportunity to start my life anew."

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