- Investigation alleges Britney Spears called 911 to report herself a victim of conservatorship abuse.
- The New Yorker says her conservatorship happened quickly: “She never had a chance.
- The report alleges Spears lives on a limited allowance, but pays the costs of her conservatorship.
A stunning investigation published Saturday by The New Yorker provides new details about Britney Spears’ fight to free herself from her restrictive conservatorship.
The report by Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino alleges the pop star called 911 to report herself a victim of conservatorship abuse, a day before Spears’ shocking June 23 court testimony during which she described herself as “traumatized” and “depressed.”
According to The New Yorker, members of Spears’ team “began texting one another frantically” after the call. “They were worried about what Spears might say the next day, and they discussed how to prepare in the event that she went rogue.”
Emergency calls are usually public record in California, but not in Spears’ case because the call is part of an ongoing investigation, Farrow and Tolentino wrote.
The investigation describes a conservatorship that was granted quickly and gone unchallenged, as well as a fraught relationship between Spears and her father, Jamie Spears, who controls her finances.
USA TODAY has reached out to Vivian Thoreen, Jamie Spears’ lawyer, and Sam Ingham, Britney Spears’ lawyer, for comment on the report.
Britney Spears is ‘speaking her truth.’ Are we listening?
Among the identified sources are family, friends and ex-employees, including Spears’ former manager Sam Lutfi (a five-year restraining order was filed against him in 2019 on Spears’ behalf by lawyers for her conservatorship), her mother Lynne Spears and her former hairstylist Kim Vo.
Among the report’s numerous allegations is that Spears’ conservatorship was intended to be temporary.
Lynne Spears thought the conservatorship would last just a few months and didn’t want to be attached to it because it might damage her relationship with her daughter, according to Jacqueline Butcher, a former family friend.
“The whole process was maybe 10 minutes,” Butcher told The New Yorker. “No one testified. No questions were asked. … She never had a chance.” The judge waived the requirement that Spears be given five days’ notice before the conservatorship kicked in.
“At the time, I thought we were helping,” Butcher said. Instead, “I helped a corrupt family seize all this control.”
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The New Yorker also alleges that Spears is living on a limited allowance, while paying the costs of her conservatorship.
According to Farrow and Tolentino, the singer pays Ingham, her court-appointed lawyer, $520,000 per year. By comparison, they say, Spears’ 2019 living expenses came to just under $450,000.
Court documents show that Jamie Spears’ lawyers billed nearly $900,000 for four months of work from October 2020 to February 2021. Included are hundreds of hours of responding to media requests at a rate of $500 to $900 per hour.
Vo remembers going out to dinner with Spears in Las Vegas in 2012. The star told him she couldn’t afford to pay her half of the $1,300 bill.
What comes across in the report is the concern from those who’ve been involved in Spears’ case.
“I got mixed feelings about everything,” Lynne Spears told The New Yorker. “I don’t know what to think. It’s a lot of pain, a lot of worry.”
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“None of this was (Britney’s) fault,” says Robin Johnson, the court-ordered monitor who observed Spears’ four days of visitation per week with her kids in 2007. “There were so many people involved in her life that caused all of this craziness with her. I don’t have anything derogatory to say about her.”
“It was probably one of the saddest cases that I’ve ever done in my entire life,” Johnson said.
On Wednesday, Judge Brenda J. Penny denied Spears’ request to remove her father as the co-conservatorship of her finances. A day later, Bessemer Trust, the wealth management company appointed to help the pop star manage her money, asked to withdraw, citing “changed circumstances” and noting it had been told Spears’ conservatorship was voluntary. Penny approved the petition to resign on Friday.
The next court hearing in Spears’ conservatorship case is set for July 14.