Britney Spears Asked That Her Father Be Charged With Conservatorship Abuse In Hearing
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Today in LA County Superior Court, pop music superstar Britney Spears may have come a few steps closer to undoing a 13-year conservatorship that she now describes as abusive. Phoning into a packed courtroom, Spears asked that her father, Jamie Spears, be charged with conservatorship abuse. Judge Brenda Penny also allowed Spears to be determined, for the first time, by a legal representative of her choice - Mathew Rosengart. With us to explain what happened today is reporter Aaron Schrank.
And, Aaron, tell us a little bit about this appearance, so to speak. Her attorney, Samuel Ingham III, already had asked to leave the case. So who actually represented Britney Spears in court?
AARON SCHRANK, BYLINE: Yeah, that's right. Today, Britney was represented by Mathew Rosengart. He's an entertainment lawyer and former federal prosecutor who recently agreed to take her case. As you mentioned, the previous court-appointed lawyer resigned after hearing last month's bombshell testimony, and that resignation went into effect today. The new lawyer, Rosengart, hit the ground running, appearing before the court today calling for Britney's father, James Spears, to step down from the conservatorship. And he was saying that his ultimate goal is to end the arrangement.
CORNISH: Did she speak for herself today? What did she have to say?
SCHRANK: Yeah. She appeared in court today by telephone, and she definitely arrived ready to speak her mind. Interestingly, before she spoke, she actually asked for the courtroom to be cleared. But when the judge said that that wasn't possible, she went ahead anyway. Speaking emotionally for about 10 minutes, she said, quote, "I am here to get rid of my dad and charge him with conservator abuse," end quote. She described feeling trapped and abandoned. The focus of her statements was getting her dad removed from the conservatorship. She said, this conservatorship is allowing my dad to ruin my life. Spears has been in this conservatorship since 2008, and we've recently learned that she evidently has been signaling for years that she wants out.
CORNISH: And then wildly, her court-appointed lawyer wasn't the only petition to resign today, right? The wealth management company Bessemer Trust also asked to be removed from service. How was that issue resolved?
SCHRANK: Yeah, the judge granted that request filed by Bessemer Trust to remove itself as the co-conservator of Britney's financial dealings. The company came on after Britney petitioned to remove her father from the arrangement, but they hadn't yet actually taken responsibility for her assets. They filed to leave, just like the lawyer, after hearing her complaints and her testimony three weeks ago. So with their removal, that leaves Britney's father, James Spears, as the sole conservator of her estate - for now, at least.
CORNISH: What's the next move for her and her new attorney?
SCHRANK: Britney and her lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, both said multiple times today that they want to remove James Spears, Britney's father, from the arrangement. And Rosengart indicated that he will file a petition to do so. While the new lawyer has signaled that he does want to see the conservatorship eventually ended, Britney said multiple times today that she only wants to petition to end the arrangement if doing so would not require her to submit to a mental health evaluation or test.
CORNISH: And finally, what was happening outside the courtroom?
SCHRANK: Well, there is a lot of images you may have seen outside the courtroom today. Britney fans and supporters gathered there with #FreeBritney and end the conservatorship signs. Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz was even there delivering fiery remarks to a crowd of passionate fans. Britney is somebody who's - obviously has a lot of, you know, supporters and fans. She was chewed up and spit out by the fame machine, exploited by the media and now by her own dad. But these folks that are out here are not just fans. They're really supporters, part of this #FreeBritney movement to see this conservatorship lifted - so yeah.
CORNISH: That's reporter Aaron Schrank.
SCHRANK: Thank you.
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