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Britney Spears is angry, depressed and has been lying to her fans about being OK. In a fiery speech, she told the judge overseeing her longstanding conservatorship, “It’s my wish and my dream for this to end.”
News that Spears would appear virtually in court as part of her much-discussed conservatorship has sparked even more interest in the arrangement — even prompting one fan to file his own petition asking the court to end it.
Spears, however, was the one people expected to make that request — and she did exactly that on Wednesday, though not through a formal petition. Her attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III, in an Aug. 31, 2020, filing reiterated to the court that the conservatorship is voluntary. While unnamed sources in her circle have told the press for years that she’s unhappy with the arrangement, and a Monday New York Times story says confidential court documents corroborate that, Spears herself hasn’t publicly confirmed it until now.
To condense more than a decade of legal proceedings and nuanced arrangements for background: Spears’ conservatorship was established in 2008, after she was hospitalized for a psychiatric evaluation. The oversight is split into two parts, conservator of the person and conservator of the estate. Her father, Jamie Spears, did both until September 2019, when a woman named Jodi Montgomery took over the personal side. Jamie, along with attorney Andrew Wallet for several years and now with Bessemer Trust, oversees her business interests and finances.
Amid questions of why Spears hadn’t given a first-person account of her feelings, in person or via a written declaration, Ingham in October told L.A. County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny the singer lacked the capacity to sign a declaration. Without such testimony, devoted fans scoured Instagram posts (largely videos of her dancing, seemingly random images and a handful of continually re-uploaded photos of herself) for clues and continued demanding #FreeBritney — a movement further stoked by the NYT documentary Framing Britney Spears.
Nearly nine months later, Spears finally spoke for herself during a Wednesday afternoon hearing before Penny — who happens to be the mother of Insecure showrunner Prentice Penny.
While an attorney for Montgomery, Lauriann Wright, asked that Spears’ privacy and her children’s privacy be protected and anything that implicates those rights be private, Spears interrupted and insisted it all be public.
“They’ve done a good job at exploiting my life,” Spears said. “So I feel like it should be an open court hearing, and they should listen to what I have to say.”
When it was her turn to talk, she quickly read from a prepared statement — so quickly that Penny had to ask her to slow down for the court reporter’s sake.
“A lot has happened since two years ago, the last time I was in court,” Spears said. “I don’t think I was heard on any level when I came to court last time.”
She then continued to detail that she was forced to do a 2018 tour, and forced to change her medication, among a long list of other grievances she said made her feel like a slave. “Not only did my family not do a goddamn thing, my dad was all for it,” said Spears.
“I’ve lied and told the whole world I’m OK and I’m happy,” Spears said, explaining that she was in denial. “If I said that enough, maybe I’d become happy. … I’m in shock. I’m traumatized. … I’m so angry it’s insane.”
Spears said she didn’t know she could petition to end the conservatorship, and that she was told she’d have to be evaluated again in order to do that.
“I’m scared of people. I don’t trust people with what I’ve been through,” said Spears of the idea of seeing another psychiatric specialist. “It’s not OK to force me to do anything I don’t want to do. … I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive. I don’t feel like I can live a full life.”
Spears says she wants to get married and have a baby, but she has an IUD and she can’t get permission to go to a doctor to have it taken out. She wants her boyfriend, actor Sam Asghari, to be able to drive her around town, and to dial back the amount of therapy she has to undergo each week. Spears also wants the therapist to come to her home, so that paparazzi can’t stake out the person’s office to take photos of her.
Penny told Ingham that he needed to file a petition to end the conservatorship, and he declined to discuss the matter in detail for fear of compromising attorney-client privilege. Meanwhile, Wright agreed that Spears’ care plan should be updated to incorporate her wishes but said this isn’t the forum to do that and again emphasized the importance of protecting her privacy.
Lynne Spears’ attorney said Britney’s mother would like to see these issues addressed as soon as possible, while Jamie Spears’ attorney asked for a brief recess before responding to the allegations made by the star. When they came back, the lawyer said Jamie’s statement was simply that he’s “sorry to hear she’s suffering and in so much pain” and that he “misses his daughter very much.”
Afterward, Penny reiterated that the parties involved should take Spears’ concerns seriously but, in order to end the conservatorship or make any other significant changes, she’ll have to formally file the paperwork with the court. Ingham said now that Spears has been able to share her side of the story with the world, she’s fine with certain proceedings being sealed from this point on.
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