Britney Spears has finally been heard. After 13 years as conservator over the pop star's multi-million-dollar estate, a Los Angeles judge suspended her estranged father Jamie Spears during a hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
Judge Brenda J. Penny granted Spears’ request for certified public accountant John Zabel to be made temporary conservator over her estate. She also ordered Jamie Spears to hand over all assets pertaining to Spears’ estate as soon as possible.
Jodi Montgomery, who oversees Spears’ day-to-day care and medical decisions, will remain the temporary conservator over Spears’ person for the time being.
“This situation is not tenable... This situation is toxic,” Judge Penny remarked while making her ruling. Although the next court date is set for Nov. 12, the conservatorship could be terminated before then.
But as the hearing came to a close, Jamie Spears’ legal team made a last ditch attempt to keep their client in a position of power, telling Judge Penny they intended to appeal her ruling, which the judge quickly shut down by saying her order was not appealable.
While Spears is still shy of being completely freed, Wednesday’s ruling is a major step in the right direction. It comes three months after the 39-year-old detailed at length what she endured during her “traumatizing” and “abusive” ordeal and begged the judge to pave the way to end the legal arrangement and, at the very least, remove her father.
“I just want my life back. It's been 13 years and it's enough,” Spears told the judge in June.
Earlier in the hearing, Spears’ attorney, former federal prosecutor turned Hollywood-go-to man Mathew Rosengart, called on the judge to immediately suspend Jamie Spears, accusing the 69-year-old of abusing his daughter not only over the 13 years of the conservatorship, but since she was a little girl.
“Mr. Spears cannot be in my client’s life for one more day,” he stated, adding that Spears couldn't bear his “toxic presence” any longer.
Rosengart also brought up the recent bombshell claims that Jamie Spears had bugged Spears’ bedroom, which sparked an objection from his legal team.
And while Jamie Spears had requested for the termination of the conservatorship, rather than his removal, Rosengart was staunchly opposed to that route. He claimed it was only a tactic for Jamie Spears to avoid being investigated and handing over the estate’s financial records to his successor, to receive a sizable settlement, and ultimately to delay the conservatorship from being disbanded.
It was mostly expected that Spears wouldn’t be completely freed from the conservatorship following Wednesday’s hearing, seeing that it would be tricky to instantaneously disband the long-standing legal arrangement that manages Spears’ $60 million estate.
Instead, Zabel will help get Spears’ business affairs in order so when the conservatorship is finally lifted, the transition process will be smooth.
The decision to remove Jamie Spears from the conservatorship was the last thing he wanted to happen. He had recently tried to object to Zabel being temporarily in charge of Spears’ estate, arguing the certified public accountant lacked the experience to manage such a large sum of money in part because he wasn’t “a licensed professional fiduciary.” Jamie Spears also drudged up how Zabel was “scammed” out of $1 million from a failed real estate scheme in 2008.
But Rosengart fired back in court papers that Jamie Spears himself was “never fit to serve” as conservator of Spears’ estate, listing a host of reasons from his “lack of financial acumen, to his bankruptcy, to his reported alcoholism, to the trauma he caused his daughter since her childhood, to the Domestic Violence Restraining Order recently issued against him.”
Jamie Spears had held onto the conservatorship with an iron grip, continually insisting the arrangement was in Spears’ best interest, all while pocketing $16,000 a month from his position and taking home a sizable percentage of any business deal Spears made.
So, it was surprising when he finally filed a petition earlier this month asking the court to terminate the conservatorship—an about turn from August when he said he would only step down when “the time was right.”
But in that same filing, Jamie Spears also requested “a mandatory settlement or alternative private mediation” to settle all of Spears’ pending matters, according to court documents.
Rosengart slammed that move as an attempt by Jamie Spears to avoid any “accountability and justice, including sitting for a sworn deposition and answering other discovery under oath.”
“But now, the chickens have truly come home to roost,” he added.
Rosengart has been adamant that Jamie Spears should be investigated over his handling of his pop star daughter’s $60 million estate, and took issue over some payments that presumably helped Jamie Spears defend himself against media scrutiny.
Months after the appearance of the bombshell NYT documentary, Framing Britney Spears, which sparked global interest in the Spears’ conservatorship battle, Jamie Spears billed Spears’ estate for $541,000 for “media matters.” Members of his legal team had went on a press campaign to proclaim their client was acting in his daughter’s best interests.
Rosengart had issued a fresh condemnation of Spears’ 69-year-old father on Monday, sparked by damning testimony from Alex Vlasov, who worked for nearly a decade as part of Spears’ security team that had been hired by Jamie Spears.
Speaking in a follow-up Times documentary Controlling Britney Spears, Vlasov claimed the pop star’s phone was monitored and that her room was bugged.
Vlasov said he was so disturbed when his boss Edan Yemini, the president of Black Box Security, asked him to wipe a recording device that was in Spears’ room and a USB drive, that he decided to keep a copy of the recordings because he “didn't want to delete evidence.”
While the documentary doesn’t play any of the audio from the device Vlasov preserved, it suggests that reporters had reviewed the recordings, describing how the USB drive had 180 hours of audio, which contained conversations with Spears’ boyfriend, Sam Asghari, and her children.
Rosengart called the allegations “horrifying and unconscionable invasions of [Jamie's] adult daughter’s privacy” that “warrant serious investigation,” as the FBI is reportedly looking into claims, sources told Deadline.