Britney Spears won’t be sitting for her dad’s so-called “revenge deposition,” a judge ruled Wednesday.
The Los Angeles County judge stuck to the court’s tentative order at an afternoon hearing and spared the “Toxic” singer the in-person grilling sought by her dad Jamie Spears. Britney’s lawyer Mathew Rosengart argued it would leave his client “re-traumatized.”
In her ruling from the bench, Judge Brenda Penny said the pop star “likely lacks” any relevant knowledge about her dad’s disputed conduct, including his alleged spying scheme first reported by a whistleblower in the The New York Times. She said Jamie’s lawyers have “alternative” ways to obtain the answers they seek without placing an “unwarranted burden” on the superstar.
“For example, the topic of surveillance is well within the scope of the pending petition objecting to payments related to unauthorized surveillance, however, Mr. Spears is likely to receive the same and possibly further responses through other means of discovery,” Judge Penny said.
Jamie sought to depose his daughter about what he calls the “unsubstantiated claims” made against him as he seeks court approval for his handling of her finances dating back to 2019 and permission to bill her estate for his ongoing legal fees. Britney is fighting those approvals, claiming her dad bullied her and mismanaged her estate while purportedly working with a security firm to surveil her private communications and bug her bedroom.
At a hearing two weeks ago, Rosengart said Jamie was essentially seeking a “revenge deposition” amid the ongoing legal war. He argued his client has no firsthand knowledge of her dad’s alleged misdeeds because she was kept in the dark during her nearly 14-year conservatorship that was terminated last November.
“Whether (Jamie Spears) believes it or not, his daughter feels traumatized by what she went through at his hands for more than a decade,” Rosengart argued Wednesday. “He is free to believe that his flesh and blood is lying. She isn’t, but he’s free to believe that. What would a decent human being do under those circumstances? What would a decent father do? He would say, ‘That is what my daughter believes. I love my daughter.’ He has told the world that he loves his daughter. If that is true, not only should he accept the court’s ruling, he should withdraw his motion (for additional fees). It’s what a decent man would do.”
In a subsequent ruling Wednesday, Judge Penny denied Jamie’s motion to obtain discovery from Kroll Associates, the investigative firm that determined Jamie paid himself more than $6.3 million from his daughter’s estate between 2008 and the end of 2020.
Jamie’s lawyer, Alex Weingarten, argued against the court’s rulings, saying he was “flabbergasted” by the proposition Jamie is not entitled to discovery from his daughter or her investigative firm amid his effort to be “vindicated.” He then defended Jamie’s record, saying the conservatorship is the reason Britney “is where she is today.”
“Mr. Spears is proud, and will remain proud, of what he did for – not to – what he did for his daughter, protecting her from svengalis and Rasputins and other unscrupulous people who were seeking to glom on to her fame. He protected her beautifully for 13 years,” Weingarten told the court. “He did nothing wrong.”
Judge Penny listened quietly, stuck to her rulings and then moved on, turning to Rosengart’s still-pending motions to depose Tri Star executives Robin Greenhill and Lou Taylor, the managers hired by Jamie to oversee Britney’s professional endeavors during her conservatorship. The judge said she considered Rosengart’s subpoenas seeking documents from Tri Star related to Jamie’s alleged spying to be fair game, but the hearing ran out of time in the middle of a rebuttal argument from one of Tri Star’s lawyers. The court set a date of Aug. 24 for a follow-up hearing on that matter.
“Judge Penny’s tentative ruling was clear – discovery is going to be restricted to events and fees relevant to the 12th Accounting, just as Tri Star had requested. In short, today was a great day for Tri Star – whatever Ms. Spears’s counsel may have tried to spin on the courthouse steps. We look forward to being deposed, advancing this process and ensuring that the full truth is finally shared,” Tri Star lawyer Scott Edelman said in a statement to Rolling Stone after the hearing.
Greenhill and Taylor have been fighting the subpoenas for nearly a year. According to Rosengart, Taylor was working in lockstep with Jamie back in 2008 when Britney’s controversial conservatorship first got off the ground. The lawyer claims Tri Star unjustly enriched itself with money from Britney’s estate, making more than $18 million in an alleged sweetheart deal. And he claims evidence shows Greenhill took part in surveillance of Britney’s private communications.
Rosengart zeroed in on Greenhill after she was singled out in the blockbuster statements made by former Spears security staffer Alex Vlasov in the New York Times documentary Controlling Britney Spears.
According to Vlasov, Greenhill actually proposed the plan to “mirror” Britney’s iCloud account to keep tabs on her text messages, notes, call logs, browser history, and photographs. He said Jamie Spears and Greenhill were on a group chat with his boss, Edan Yemini, head of the security company Black Box, tracking Britney’s personal life.
“Edan would bring me text messages Britney would have, and he would ask me to encrypt those messages and give it to him so he could pass it on to Robin and Jamie,” Vlasov said. “They would also monitor conversations with her friends, with her mom, with her lawyer Sam Ingham.”
Vlasov claimed that at one point, Yemini “had an audio recording device put into Britney’s bedroom.”
In a Nov. 4 sworn statement accompanying her motion to quash the subpoenas, Greenhill claimed “no one at Tri Star has ever suggested monitoring Ms. Spears’ electronic communications.” She also denied any knowledge of a “hidden electronic surveillance device placed in Ms. Spears’ bedroom.” She and Taylor suggested Rosengart’s request for records dating back 14 years was “grossly overbroad” because Tri Star wasn’t involved in Britney’s career or the creation of the conservatorship in early February 2008.
“Tri Star played no part whatsoever in suggesting the establishment of the conservatorship,” Greenhill wrote.
According to Rosengart and his co-counsel Kyle Freeny, Greenhill’s statements were false. In a July 1 sworn statement, Freeny told the court that Black Box had produced Word documents containing screenshots of Britney’s text messages, and that Yemini had shared the texts with Jamie and Greenhill via email between 2016 and 2019.
The lawyers also supplied the court with a Jan. 1, 2008, email that Jamie’s lawyer Geraldine Wyle sent to Taylor discussing the best time to file for the conservatorship.
“Lou, We have run into a problem with our judge selection — the only judge who will be able to hear our case on Friday is the one [judge] who will not give Jamie the power to administer psychotropic drugs to B. The first time she is off the bench is Wednesday. That is the first safe day to be in court on this matter,” Wyle wrote in the email a month before Britney’s conservatorship was granted. “If we go earlier, all of this work could well be for virtually nothing.”
In a subsequent email to Jamie Spears on Jan. 17, 2008, Taylor wrote that she already had spoken to others about Andrew Wallet, the man who ultimately became Jamie’s co-conservator. “He and tri star will serve as co’s w you,” Taylor wrote, meaning her company would join Wallet as another co-conservator. That never happened.
“Tri Star’s own internal emails — obtained from a third party — demonstrate that Tri Star’s Lou Taylor played a substantial role in Ms. Spears’ affairs prior to and in the early days of the conservatorship,” Rosengart told the court in a July 1 filing.
Lawyers for Tri Star and Greenhill countered that the Taylor emails as well as the alleged documents from Black Box had not been authenticated and amounted to hearsay.