Frank Micelotta/Getty Images, Fame Pictures
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images, Fame Pictures
The battle between Britney Spears' parents and her ex-manager has already gotten ugly.
An attorney for Sam Lutfi, who is suing Jamie and Lynne Spears for libel, described in court his client as a concerned friend who "worked very hard to keep Britney Spears off drugs" before a psychiatric episode in 2008 led to her father establishing a conservatorship for her estate and pushing Lutfi out of the picture with a restraining order.
"My client was made a scapegoat for the drug abuse and erratic behavior of Britney Spears," Lutfi's lawyer, Joseph Schleimer, said today in his opening statement. "She liked to use amphetamines—speed or uppers. She liked to take that drug. And most of the things that went wrong were related to that drug."
Jamie and Lynn, who are divorced, sat together in the courtroom. They took notes during Schleimer's statement and during breaks were seen huddling with their attorneys in the hallway outside.
Schleimer told the court that Lutfi met Britney in a nightclub at a point in her life when "30 or 40" paparazzi would be following her at any given time. Once he became part of her life, Schleimer continued, Lutfi would alert the paps to their comings and goings to encourage some kind of order amid the frenzy.
When she met Lutfi, Britney had already completed a stint in rehab (she went to Promises in Malibu in early 2007), fired her other managers and distanced herself from her parents, Schleimer said. She first referred to Lutfi as her manager when she brought him along to a meeting with record execs to discuss Blackout and, when they wanted him to leave, she insisted he was her manager.
Schleimer continued his statement claiming that Lutfi agreed to work for Britney in July 2007 for 15 percent of her earnings and under the condition that she stay clean and let him bring drug-sniffing dogs to search her house. The dogs, the attorney claimed, turned up a bag of crystal meth in a trap door and "hot spots" of residue on the carpet—which Lutfi later had ripped out and replaced.
To illustrate his point about the place Britney was at in her life when Lutfi was with her, Schleimer flashed on a screen for the jury to see the infamous photo of Britney, sporting a newly shaved head and an angry sneer, banging on a car with an umbrella.
Warned by L.A. Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bruguera that he would need to be able to back up the allegations he was making with evidence, Schleimer promised to provide either "testimony or documentary evidence."
Britney, still under the thumb of the conservatorship, has been excused from testifying or appearing in court during these proceedings.
In obtaining a restraining order against Lufti, Jamie and Lynne Spears had accused him of crushing up pills in Britney's food, hiding her cell phone, encouraging paparazzi to follow her and otherwise bothering their daughter.
Lutfi sued them in February 2009 for breach of contract and defamation based on several chapters in a memoir Lynne wrote in which she described Britney's once-constant companion as a manipulator. The conservatorship, meanwhile, is seeking to reclaim $93,000 in attorney fees from Lutfi.
Lutfi and Britney, Schleimer continued after the afternoon break, had a "strong artistic relationship" and his client advised her to go to Las Vegas to work on her dancing for the good of her health.
Excusing the jury from the room, the judge again reminded Schleimer that he better have evidence to support these statements.
"Everything you say, you have to be able to back it up," she admonished him. "You can't waste time on statements just thrown in the air. Everything has to have evidence…There is no explanation that dancing is the best thing for her health...I'm trying to make a point and I hope you get it. "
Schleimer continued, telling the court that Lutfi was the one who encouraged Britney to reconcile with her parents, even though Jamie recommended that Britney rehire Larry Rudolph as her manager. Jamie was the one who refused a visit with his grandchildren, Sean and Jayden, when Lutfi suggested it, Schleimer said.
In January 2008, Britney obtained 30 pills of prescription amphetamines, according to Schleimer's statement in court, and took "all or most" of them in 36 hours. She then locked herself in the bathroom with Jayden and refused to turn the child over to his father, Kevin Federline. An ambulance was called and Britney ended up hospitalized at UCLA Medical Center.
On the night of Jan. 28, Schleimer recounted, they had been returning to her home to meet with a doctor when Britney jumped out of the car inside her gated community and plopped down on the sidewalk, holding her dog. Schleimer showed a paparazzo's video of the incident to the court.
When Britney's parents showed up at the house after seeing the media coverage, Jamie threatened to "beat the hell out of" Lutfi if he didn't get out of his daughter's life and punched him in the stomach, Schleimer said.
Britney was again transported to the hospital in the wee hours of Jan. 31 and placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold. Lutfi was initially denied entry into the waiting area, but was ultimately allowed in at around 2:30 a.m.
"My client has never been paid for serving as her manager," the lawyer concluded. "He was made famous as the guy who drugged Britney Spears and put her in the hospital. The evidence will show the defendants ruined my client's reputation."