In the case of Britney Spears' alleged sex tape, a Beverly Hills judge wants to see more.
More information, that is, before she rules on whether to dismiss the pop star's $20 million libel suit against Us Weekly, calling it "a very close case," Los Angeles City News Service reported Thursday.
Spears, 24, sued the magazine in December over an Oct. 17 "Hot Stuff" column that mentioned a sex tape featuring her and husband Kevin Federline. The article said the couple acted goofy while screening the purported romp for their estate-planning lawyers, all of whom "either laughed or [were] disgusted by it." The Chaotic couple showed it to their reps because they had been afraid the "raunchy footage"--a duplicate from Spears' and K-Fed's private collection--would go public, the column claimed.
Instead of saying, "Oops, I did it again," Spears vehemently denied the item, saying there was no laughter, disgust or goofiness and no viewing party. In fact, there was no tape whatsoever, she said.
Attorneys from both camps were in court Thursday to hear Judge Lisa Hart Cole's ruling on Us's motion to have the case thrown out, filed Feb. 21 by the magazine's attorney, Alonzo Wickers. The motion reads that Spears' lawsuit is trying to punish or discourage free speech and calls Us' report on Spears' alleged concern over the alleged tape's release "a matter of public interest."
Although hearing about the couple's intimate exploits sounds about as appealing as another chorus of "PopoZão," Spears apparently is adamant about wiping the very idea of the tape from the record. Her lawsuit reads that the article was "a despicable work of fiction comprised of blatant lies from beginning to end."
Us Weekly's motion also suggested that, even if the "Toxic" singer can prove the story is untrue and defamatory, "she cannot show that Us Weekly published the story with constitutional actual malice," or that the mag knew it was false or recklessly published it regardless of whether it was true.
Us turned down the singer's request for a retraction, according to Spears' lawsuit.
The court has given Spears' attorney, Martin Singer, until Apr. 6 to depose more potential witnesses. Cole, however, denied Singer's request Thursday to take depositions from Ian Drew, author of the column in question, or from his alleged source for the story.
"We think they purposefully avoided the truth here," Singer told Cole in court. The attorney is claiming Drew broke Us procedure by waiting to call Spears' New York publicist for comment on the item until after 5 p.m. on Rosh Hashanah eve (which arrived later than usual, in early October) last year. Singer contends the writer should have called him or phoned Spears' Beverly Hills reps.
Us countered the accusation in court with assurances that Drew "had a credible source" and that he had no reason not not to believe the tip, considering Spears' "highly sexualized public image."
The next hearing is scheduled for May 3.
Actually, tales of Spears' sexiness have for the most part been replaced by stories of marital woe, unshed baby weight and premature driving lessons for her baby son. The singer's marriage seems to be proving money can't buy happiness--especially if your husband is reportedly squandering the fortune you raked in as a teen pop sensation and you have to put him on a budget (which is exactly what Spears has had to do to rein in Federline's spending, according to ITV.com).
Spears, who is currently vacationing in Hawaii, is set to appear in an Apr. 13 episode of Will & Grace.