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Britney Spears reported conservatorship abuse to police, claims New Yorker report

By | Published on Monday 5 July 2021

Britney Spears

Britney Spears called 911 the night before she gave her recent headline-grabbing court statement to report herself as the victim of conservatorship abuse. This is one of many revelations contained in a new in depth and critical exposé of the court ordered guardianship that the musician has been held under since 2008.

While recordings of 911 calls in California are generally made available to the public, records of the one made by Spears have been sealed, as it is part of an ongoing investigation. However, according to the new article in the New Yorker, after it was made “members of Spears’s team began texting one another frantically. They were worried about what Spears might say [in court] the next day, and they discussed how to prepare in the event that she went rogue”.

When she made her statement to the court, of course, Spears was hugely critical of the ongoing conservatorship that manages her affairs, claiming that her life was being controlled by others in order to make those people more money. She then said that the conservatorship system is “abusive” and leaves her unable to “live a full life”. She was particularly critical of her father, Jamie, who she said “loved the control to hurt his own daughter”, and also suggested that once she is free of the conservatorship she will sue various people, including members of her own family.

That court hearing last month wasn’t actually discussing whether or not the conservatorship should be kept in place, but was instead focused on who should run it. Jamie Spears previously reduced his role due to ill health and has been recently seeking to regain full control of his daughter’s financial affairs.

In the New Yorker article, journalists talk to a former friend of the Spears family, Jacqueline Butcher, who was present at the original court hearing all the way back in 2008 when the conservatorship was first put in place following the musician’s very public breakdown.

Back then, Butcher says, she supported the move, which was approved in a court hearing that lasted mere minutes. However, “I didn’t know how a conservatorship worked. It was supposed to be temporary. At the time, I thought we were helping. And I wasn’t – and I helped a corrupt family seize all this control”.

“The whole process was maybe ten minutes”, she says of that 2008 court hearing. “No one testified. No questions were asked. A conservatorship was granted without ever talking to [Britney]. And, whatever they claim about any input she had behind the scenes, how could you have assessed her then? Shouldn’t you wait a week, then interview her? She never had a chance”.

The judge who granted the conservatorship, Reva Goetz, refutes this account, insisting that Spears was actually properly assessed and that there were lengthy discussions prior to the hearing.

Still, the article includes comments from many other people critical of the set up, many of whom claim that Spears has her life placed under an extraordinary amount of control. More so, it suggests, than you would normally expect in such a case.

It also gives more detail about the lead up to the breakdown that resulted in all control of Spears’ personal and financial affairs being taken away from her. Constantly hounded by paparazzi and the media, she had recently lost custody of her two very young children in her divorce from Kevin Federline and may also have been experiencing post-natal depression.

Her court appointed attorney, Sam Ingham, it is then claimed, reported back to her father from the beginning of the arrangement and has his own interest in the conservatorship remaining in place, given that Spears has to cover his annual salary of $525,000 – nearly $90,000 more than her own 2019 living expenses.

Elsewhere, the star’s former manager Sam Lufti claims that Spears sometimes uses strangers’ phones to call people, including himself, out of fear that her own phone is under surveillance. “I’ll go years without contact, and then I’ll get a call every once in a while from her in a closet”, he says. “Last time she called me, she was at Ralphs, in Calabasas. After she hung up, I got a call from the same number – it’s an Asian doctor, who says, ‘Wow, this is surreal, Britney just borrowed my phone’. Five years ago, she borrowed a phone at the gym and just made off with it”.

Lutfi adds that the last time he actually saw Spears was in 2015, and that the encounter left him concerned. “My opinion is that this conservatorship has drastically affected her mind-set”, he says.

Following a lengthy legal battle after being pushed out of Spears’ life, Lufti is currently subject to a restraining order, filed in 2019 on the singer’s behalf. The New Yorker article suggests that forcing the musician to cut contact with people who have offered to help her out of – or simply to have more of a voice in – the conservatorship is a repeat occurrence over the last thirteen years.

It’s also claimed that there have been moves to silence critics of the conservatorship. An early proponent of the Free Britney movement – which has been campaigning for the conservatorship to be abandoned – Jordan Miller, tells the magazine that he was contacted by Jamie Spears all the way back in 2009 when he was first critical of the arrangement on a Britney fan site he was running.

“He told me he was going to destroy my ass”, Miller claims. “He was on the call for probably two or three minutes, and I got no words in edgewise. I was shaking in my childhood bedroom, terrified”. This was followed by a letter from Jamie Spears’ lawyers saying that the website contravened copyright law. Miller took down the site, but reinstated it months later.

Speaking for the conservatorship side, spokespeople cited in the article deny that the arrangement is bad for Spears. They point out that she has gone from experiencing rapid decline in 2008 to being worth more than $60 million now. They also say that when someone has mental illness, family members sometimes have to take action that may not make sense to outsiders.

Although Spears said last month that she wanted the conservatorship to be brought to an end, she is yet to file a petition formally beginning that process. If and when she does, it remains to be seen what objections are raised by her family.

Read the New Yorker article in full here.