Britney Trial: Sam Lutfi Claims "Huge Spike" in Death Threats; Lynne Spears Calls Him "Puppet Master"

Singer's legal eagles try to poke holes in her former manager's testimony that his life was threatened after the publication of her mom's book

By Josh Grossberg, Claudia Rosenbaum Oct 26, 2012 11:27 PMTags
Watch: Lynne Spears Exits Her Daughter's Trial

If you ask Sam Lutfi, he feared for his life—and he's sticking to his story.

On the seventh day of Britney Spears' defamation trial, her ex-manager testified that he received a "huge spike" in death threats after the publication of Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World, a memoir by the popster's mom, Lynne Spears, that accused him of manipulating her daughter.

Under cross-examination from the elder Spears' attorney, Stephen Rohde, Lutfi admitted he called it a "spike" because he had received death threats in the past. Lutfi also revealed that he did not save any of the reported death threats that he had received in the mail and that he never reported any of those threats to the authorities.

Attempting to undermine Lutfi's credibility, the legal eagle asked if anyone mentioned Lynne or her book specifically in the threats and Lutfi said, "that was not true"—implying that the threats did not mention the Mama Spears allegations. Rohde then played back the latter's depositions from 2011, in which Lutfi answered the same question by saying he could not recall.

During re-direct, his attorney, Joseph Schleimer, tried to address this discrepancy in his client's accounts. When Schleimer asked Lutfi, once again, if he ever reported these death threats to law enforcement after the tome was published, this time Lutfi said he did—to the Los Angeles Police Department harassment division. Lutfi explained the apparent contradiction by stating that he had memory issues.

"Under pressure or stress or if I'm tired that my memory will fail me, and I do blank out at times," he said.

When asked by Rohde whether he could produce for the court a copy of the complaint he filed with the LAPD about the threats, he admitted he didn't have it.

On Wednesday, Lutfi testified that after Through the Storm came out portraying him as a Svengali-like figure controlling Britney's every move, people began "shunning" him, wished him dead and made him feel "depressed, anxious and suicidal."

Taking the stand for the first time this afternoon, Lynne acknowledged using terms like "predator," "fake" and "Svengali" to describe Lutfi, and she said she titled the chapter about him in her book "The General" because he had told her he had unplugged Britney's house phone, hid her cell phone and secretly put ground-up pills in her food.

"These are his exact words," Lynne said.

Lutfi was a "puppet master," she testitifed, and he "hovered over my daughter and tried to insert himself in every aspect of her life."

Though she didn't call the police, "I was very worried," Lynne said. "I kept trying to get her away from there." Earlier she spoke of talking to Lutfi "hundreds of times" while he was in Britney's life, and she admitted that he made good on a promise to reunite mother and daughter in 2007, during a period when Britney had stopped speaking to her parents.

Lynne testified that she was in Kentwood, La., when Lutfi called her crying on Jan. 3, 2008, saying had Britney locked herself in the bathroom. The pop star was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center by ambulance later that night. Lynne said she went to California about three weeks later.

Testimony will pick back up on Tuesday with more from Robin Johnson, who was Britney's court-ordered child care monitor during the years in question. The trial is expected to last at least another two more weeks.