On Wednesday, Britney Spears fiercely addressed the court in her controversial conservatorship case, which has been at the center of the #FreeBritney movement for the past few years.
The 39-year-old pop icon appeared virtually. Her remarks in the case mark only the second time the "Stronger" singer has spoken out against her father, James "Jamie" Spears, and the conservatorship that she has been under since her public breakdown in 2008.
Britney Spears, her father and mother, Lynne Spears, appeared by telephone during the hearing.
When a lawyer tried to object about the hearing being closed due to medical records, Spears interjected, saying, "They have done a good job at exploiting my life and the way that they've done, my life. I feel like it should be an open court hearing and they should listen and hear what I have to say."
During her statement to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny, she said, "I want to end the conservatorship without being evaluated."
"I've been in shock," she added. "I am traumatized, You know, fake it till you make it, but now I'm telling you the truth. OK. I'm not happy. I can't sleep. I'm so angry, it's insane and I'm depressed. I cry every day and the reason I'm telling you this is because I don't know how the state of California can have all this written in the court documents from the time I showed up and do absolutely nothing."
During the explosive appearance, Spears dropped several bombshells, including the revelation that she has an IUD that she says her family will not let her remove to have another child and that she was given lithium at one point by doctors, which she says impaired her.
"I've worked since I was 17 years old; you have to understand how thin that is for me. Every morning, I get up to know I can't go on somewhere unless I meet people I don't know every week in our office, identical to the one where the therapist was very abusive to me," she said. "I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive and that we can sit here all day and say, 'Oh, conservatorships are here to help people. But ma'am, there's 1,000 conservatorships that are abusive as well. I don't feel like I can live a full life; I don't. I don't owe them to go see a man I don't know and share my problems."
Spears specifically addressed her father numerous times, saying her "dad and anyone involved in this conservatorship in my management who played a huge role in punishing me when I said, 'No,'" adding, "Ma'am, they should be in jail.'"
"I cried on the phone for an hour and he loved every minute of it," she said at one point of her father. "The control he had over someone as powerful as me, as he loved the control to hurt his own daughter 100,000 percent. He loved it. I packed my bags and went to that place. I work seven days a week, no days off, which in California, the only similar thing to this is called sex trafficking."
For the last 13 years, Spears hasn't been able to make any significant decisions about her career, finances or personal life without the oversight of her conservatorship. In court documents from 2016, leaked to the New York Times but not reviewed by TODAY, Britney Spears said "the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her" and "it restricted everything from whom she dated to the color of her kitchen cabinets."
"The last time I spoke to you by just keeping the conversation going because I should go," she said on Wednesday. "Also keeping my dad in the loop made me feel like I was dead. Like I didn't matter, like nothing had been done to me, like you thought I was lying or something. I'm telling you again because I'm not mine. I want to feel heard and I'm telling you this again so maybe you can understand the depth and the degree and the damage that they did to me back then. I want changes and I want changes going forward. I deserve changes."
As defined by the California court, a conservatorship is "a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the 'conservator') to care for another adult (called the 'conservatee') who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances."
There are two types of conservators: a conservator of the person and a conservator of the estate. Sometimes this person is the same and sometimes they are different. A conservator of the person is in charge of basic daily needs, making sure the conservatee gets the proper food, clothing, shelter and health care they need. A conservator of the estate handles the conservatee’s financial matters and needs.
In the case of Britney Spears, Jamie Spears was made both the conservator of the person and a conservator of the estate. He shared the duty of conservator of the estate with attorney Andrew Wallet.
Jamie Spears had been co-conservator of his daughter's estate up until 2019 when Wallet resigned. Wallet's resignation left Jamie Spears as the sole conservator, as least temporarily. Up until 2019, Jamie Spears had been the singer's sole conservator of the person until he stepped down due to his ailing health at the time. Jodi Montgomery was made temporary conservator of the person.
Last year, Britney Spears' court-appointed attorney Samuel D. Ingham III filed a petition to have Jamie Spears removed altogether, citing the singer's fear of him. "My client has informed me that she is afraid of her father," Ingham told the judge in November 2020. "She will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career."
Judge Penny denied Britney Spears' request to remove her father, but did appoint a financial institution, Bessemer Trust, to be Jamie Spears’ co-conservator of the estate.
“For over twelve years, Mr. Spears has dutifully served as the Conservator of his daughter’s Estate. Whether working with or without a co-conservator, Mr. Spears has performed his job well,” his lawyers wrote in court documents obtained by TODAY at the time of that decision.
“This is not an opinion; he has taken the Estate from being in debt and facing tens of millions of dollars of lawsuits to a current value of well over $60 million. Mr. Spears’ record as Conservator speaks for itself.”
More recently in March 2021, the younger Spears requested that Montgomery, her temporary conservator of the person, be made permanent. Jamie Spears did not refuse this request.
On Wednesday, Britney Spears said she was happy that the hearing was being monitored by the press, as she has not had the chance to speak out.
"It's not fair, they're telling me lies about me openly, even my family," Britney Spears said. "They do interviews to anyone they want on news stations, my own family doing interviews, and talking about the situation and making me feel so stupid and I can't say one thing, and my own people say I can't stand to say anything."
"I want a recorded call, actually we're doing this now, which I didn't know that we were doing this, but the public needs to know what they did to me."
A lawyer for Jamie Spears addressed the court on Wednesday after a 20 minute recess, saying he was "sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain."
His lawyer added, "Mr. Spears loves his daughter, and misses her very much."
TODAY has reached out to representatives for both Jamie and Britney Spears for further comment and we will update this post if they get back to us.
Wednesday's appearance was requested by Spears back in April, after a resurgence in interest in her conservatorship grew following the release of "Framing Britney Spears," an in-depth documentary produced by the New York Times and Hulu. Several other docs about her life and career have followed, including one for the BBC titled "The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship."
"Geez !!!! 2021 is definitely way better than 2020 but I never knew it was gonna be like THIS 😳😳😳!!!! So many documentaries about me this year with other people's takes on my life ... what can I say … I’m deeply flattered !!!!" she wrote in an Instagram post last month.
She continued, "I think the world is more interested in the negative 🤷🏼♀️🤷🏼♀️🤷🏼♀️ !!!! I mean … isn't this supposed to bea business and society about THE FUTURE 🤧🤧🤧 ???? Why highlight the most negative and traumatizing times in my life from forever ago ????"
Ahead of her court appearance on Wednesday, fans of the pop star and vocal supporters of the #FreeBritney movement were excited for the pop star to speak out for herself on the record amid so much speculation, but they also were weary.
"Excited is a good way to put it but also it's very cautious optimism because in #FreeBritney world specifically anything can change at the drop of a dime, and I think yesterday's reporting from the New York Times is very emblematic of that going into this court date," Bible Girl, who asked we only use his drag name, told TODAY via phone from the courthouse. "Prior to this news being reported yesterday, there was, as I said cautious optimism because the prospect of Britney being able to speak up is obviously a great one. I think going back then again you're never really sure what's going to be brought to the table."
"But there's a very palpable noticeable shift in the air, the energy feels definitely different than how it has in the past going into court case where there's just a lot of ambiguity. I think we're in good standing for today, especially on after her boyfriend Sam Asghari posted a picture of him wearing a #FreeBritney shirt on his Instagram story this morning."
On Wednesday, Britney Spears’ boyfriend, Sam Asghari, seemingly shared his support for the pop star when he shared a selfie on his Instagram Story wearing a T-shirt that seemed to read “Free Britney.” Asghari, who has been dating the pop star since 2016, has previously criticized his girlfriend’s father in the past, saying he had “zero respect” for him.
“In my opinion, Jamie is a total d---,” Asghari, who is from Iran, said in February. “I won't be going into details because I've always respected our privacy but at the same time, I didn't come to this country to not be able to express my opinion and freedom."
For members of the #FreeBritney movement, they hope that not only Jamie Spears is removed from the conservatorship, but more importantly, that the conservatorship in general is put to an end.
“I'm not a fortune teller but I would like to say based on all our external evidence and based on what is public record that today will mark something that is a positive outcome for Britney,” Bible Girl told TODAY. “The real hope is that it's not just to remove Jamie Spears from the conservatorship.”
For the pop icon and mother of two, she said on Wednesday that this is also what she wants: for the conservatorship to end without her having to be evaluated.
"I don't want to be evaluated to be sat in a room with people, for hours a day like they did to me before, and they made it even worse for me after that happened," she said. Spears did say she thinks she needs therapy, but said she would like for the therapy sessions to be conducted at her home and with a therapist of her choosing.
"I just want my life back and it's been 13 years and it's enough," she continued. "It's been a long time since I've owned my money, and it's my wish and my dream for all of this to end without being tested. Again, it makes no sense whatsoever for the state of California to sit back and literally watch me with their own two eyes make a living for so many people, and pay so many people... trucks and buses on tour on the road with me being told I'm not good enough but I'm great at what I do."
"Now, going forward, I'm not willing to meet or see anyone I've met with enough people against my will," she said. "I'm done. All I want is to own my money, for this to end and my boyfriend to drive me in his f---ing car."
"I feel open and I'm OK to talk to you today about it but I wish I could stay with you on the phone forever," she said, referring to the judge. "When I get off the phone with you all of a sudden all of I hear all these nos... no, no, no, and then all of a sudden I feel ganged up on and I feel bullied and I feel left out and alone. I'm tired of feeling alone. I deserve to have the same rights as anybody does by having a child, a family, any of those things and more so."