In an emotional, angry, occasionally profane speech in court, singer Britney Spears Wednesday demanded an end to the conservatorship that has controlled her life for 13 years, saying she is forced to endure oppressive conditions comparable to slavery and sex-trafficking.
“This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good,” she told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny. “I deserve to have a life.”
In her telephonic presentation, Spears — speaking rapidly from prepared notes, occasionally losing her place — told Penny she can’t sleep and cries every day. She said social media posts assuring fans that she’s happy are “a lie.” The singer also said she wants to sue her family, accusing her “ignorant” father of relishing the abusive treatment inflicted upon his own daughter.
Spears, 39, said she wants the conservatorship to end without forcing her to undergo any more mental health evaluations. She also said she wants to “get married and have a baby,” claiming the conservatorship won’t allow her to remove an IUD preventing her from getting pregnant.
Spears unleashed a blistering condemnation of those controlling her career, medical and psychological treatment, at one point saying she was forced to attend a live-in rehab treatment in Beverly Hills, for which she was ordered to pay $60,000 a month. She said she cried on the phone for an hour to her father — the co-conservator of her estate — “and he loved every minute of it. The control he had over someone as powerful as me, as he loved the control, to hurt his daughter, 100,000 percent he loved it.”
“I worked seven days a week, no days off, which in California the only similar thing to this is called sex trafficking,” she said, adding that all of her money, credit cards, telephone and passport were taken from her. She also said nurses were in the home with her around the clock, watching her change clothes.
“After I’ve lied and told the whole world I’m OK and I’m happy. It’s a lie,” she said, adding that she thought if she said it enough she would believe it herself.
“I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized,” she said. “… I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry it’s insane, and I’m depressed.”
At one point, she said her father, managers and anyone involved in the conservatorship “should be in jail.”
She also referred to Miley Cyrus, saying the singer faces no consequences for smoking pot on stage on television, while Spears continues to have her life meticulously controlled.
“Nothing is ever done to this generation for doing wrong things, but my precious body, who has worked for my dad for the past (expletive) 13 years, trying to be so good and pretty, so perfect when he worked me so hard, when I do everything I’m told and the state of California allowed my ignorant father to take his own daughter … they allowed him to do that to me? That’s giving these people I worked for way too much control.”
She said what she has been through is “embarrassing and demoralizing,” saying she has continued working — lining the pockets of her father and others involved in the conservatorship.
Spears said if the conservatorship is ended, she would agree to in-home therapy once or twice a week, as long as it was done at her own home so she would not be forced to travel to a facility in front of the paparazzi.
An attorney for Jodi Montgomery, the temporary conservator of Spears’ person, said it was important that a plan be put in place for continuing therapy, but Spears quickly interjected and it would need her approval.
The hearing came amid the backdrop of a vocal, fan-orchestrated ” FreeBritney” movement pushing for an end to the conservatorship that has been in place since 2008, following a series of bizarre behavioral breakdowns, including one in which she shaved her head.
Her supporters have questioned the need for the conservatorship, which is usually used for people who are sick, elderly or unable to otherwise manage their own affairs. Spears has produced a series of hit albums and repeatedly toured and performed in Las Vegas over the past 13 years.
Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, and the Bessemer Trust Co. are the co-conservators of the singer’s estate, and they share management of her business affairs. Jamie Spears’ involvement in the conservatorship has been a lingering and growing point of contention, with the singer’s attorney, Samuel Ingham III, repeatedly saying his client would be happier without her father involved.
Britney Spears and her father have had a roller-coaster relationship over the years, but attorneys for Jamie Spears have insisted that he has always done his best to look out for his daughter’s well-being.
Following Spears’ remarks in court Wednesday, Vivian Lee Thoreen, an attorney for Jamie Spears, requested a brief recess to consult with the singer’s father. When court reconvened, she read a brief statement from Jamie Spears, saying, “He is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain. Mr. Spears loves his daughter and misses her very much.”
In the end, the judge left it up to the singer and Ingham to decide whether to file a formal petition to end the conservatorship. The judge repeatedly used the word “courage” when speaking to Spears about her decision to address the court.
“I want to commend you again for stepping forward,” the judge said in her closing remarks to Spears.
Ingham informed the judge near the end of the proceedings that the singer told him she wants future hearings to be in closed session, as they were in earlier days of the conservatorship. Wednesday’s session was held remotely, but audio was made available to the public to listen.
Ingham said he will speak with the singer about whether she wants a petition brought to terminate the conservatorship. He said she has not asked him to do before Wednesday, although Spears said during her address to the court that she did not know she could take that step.
Spears has long argued against her father’s involvement in the conservatorship. She hasn’t performed live since 2018, and her attorneys have said she won’t do so again while her father remains in control of her affairs, and profiting from her work.
On Tuesday, The New York Times — citing a review of confidential court records in the case — reported that Spears has been pushing for an end to the conservatorship as far back as 2014. A court investigator reported in 2016 that Spears believed the conservatorship had “become an oppressive and controlling tool against her” and maintained “too much control” over her life, to the point of rejecting her wish to re-stain the cabinets in her kitchen.
Recent action in the case has focused mainly on the roles of Jamie Spears and the Bessemer Trust in the conservatorship over her estate.
According to The New York Times report, Spears’ attorney, Ingham told the court in 2014 that the singer feared all of her concerns about her father’s control over her life were being swept under the rug.
Spears repeated that assertion Wednesday, telling Penny she felt that her last speech to the court in 2019 went completely unheeded, leaving her feeling “dead.”
Last year, Ingham asked that Jamie Spears be suspended from his role as co-conservator. Judge Penny refused, but indicated she might reconsider in the future.
The New York Times story included excerpts from a confidential court investigator’s report that left the judge concerned and wondering aloud how it became public.
“I don’t know how that happened,” the judge said.
Toward the end of the proceeding, the judge also cut off the audio internet broadcast of the hearing, saying people were illegally recording it against the court’s orders. Some fans posted snippets of Spears’ remarks on social media.
Hours before Wednesday’s court hearing, some fans of Spears began gathering outside the downtown courthouse, even though the singer was not expected to be there in person. They carried signs, played music and rallied in support of Spears and called for an end to the conservatorship.
Spears herself has never directly responded to the “#FreeBritney” movement, although fans have taken to closely analyzing her social media posts, looking for any signs she may be trying to communicate with her fans or convey signs of personal distress through subtle clues, such as the color or type of clothes she wears.
In an Instagram post last week, Spears answered some questions from fans, with one asking if she is ready to start performing again.
“I have no idea,” Spears said on the video clip. “I’m having fun right now. I’m in transition in my life and I’m enjoying myself.”
She wrote in a social media post this week that she and her boyfriend, Sam Asghari, had taken a trip to Maui.
“I had a couple of embarrassing moments of living each day like it was my last!!! If you haven’t done that, I strongly suggest you do!!!,” she wrote.
On Instagram Wednesday morning, Asghari posted a photo of himself wearing a white T-shirt with “Free Britney” painted on front.