Everything that's happened in Britney Spears' conservatorship case since her shocking testimony
Two weeks ago, Britney Spears testified in court. While living under a legal conservatorship for the past 13 years, the 39-year-old pop star told the judge, she has been abused, controlled, medicated, and exploited — and she wants out.
As reported in a New York Times investigation published the day before Spears addressed the court, it wasn't the first time she had made allegations about her treatment or expressed the wish that the conservatorship come to an end. It was the first time, however, that the world heard her speak at such length about the arrangement. While Spears' father and primary conservator, Jamie Spears, had long insisted that the case's hearings be sealed, the one on June 23 (which marked the first time Britney had directly addressed the court since 2019) was open to the public, its audio available to stream.
If the 2019 launch of the #FreeBritney movement constituted the first spark of public outcry against the conservatorship and the February release of the FX documentary Framing Britney Spears fanned it to a healthy flame, the "Toxic" singer's disturbing account of her treatment as a conservatee ignited an all-consuming blaze. Shocking details from her 20-plus-minute statement rocked social media, prompted messages of support from fellow celebrities, and made headlines nationwide.
In the weeks since Spears' testimony, her case has seen fresh twists. A handful of new reports, including one painstakingly researched investigation from The New Yorker, have shed more light on this 13-year-old story, clarifying some of its many carefully obscured angles. A few central players in the conservatorship have submitted their resignations in the aftermath of the bombshell testimony as well, giving the impression that the apparatus is beginning to crumble under the heightened media scrutiny.
With the story changing day by day, all eyes are on Britney. Here's what's happened since she spoke for herself.
This past weekend, a lengthy story by New Yorker writers Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino illuminated the history of the conservatorship, all the way back to the series of public (and heavily publicized) scenes that precipitated it and its actual inception in 2008 — an event described in the piece as a 10-minute process during which Spears herself was never consulted. In addition to offering detailed accounts of how the pop star has been denied access to her children, a cell phone, old and new friends, and her $60 million fortune, the report revealed that, the night before last month's court hearing, she made a 911 call to report herself a victim of conservatorship abuse.
That aligns with the message she sent the following day; in her testimony, she told Judge Brenda Penny, "Ma'am, my dad and anyone involved in this conservatorship and my management who played a huge role in punishing me — ma'am, they should be in jail."
Some of those people are trying to disentangle themselves from the whole situation. On Monday, Spears' longtime manager Larry Rudolph (who had been briefly replaced by the infamous Sam Lutfi in the mid-aughts but was reinstated in the role by Jamie Spears upon the establishment of the conservatorship), stepped down in a letter to Jamie. The document cites Britney's "intention to officially retire" as the basis for Rudolph's exit, asserts that Rudolph and Britney have not communicated in two-and-a-half years, and explicitly distances Rudolph from the conservatorship ("as you know, I have never been a part of the conservatorship nor its operations"). Spears' testimony included unfavorable references to her management team.
Another notable resignation is that of Spears' court-appointed attorney Sam Ingham, who has represented her since the conservatorship began in 2008. Spears was deemed mentally unfit to retain her own counsel at the time (based in part on a report by Ingham himself) and has never been given the chance to hire her own lawyer in 13 years; in her testimony, she said, "I haven't really had the opportunity by my own self to actually handpick my own lawyer by myself. And I would like to be able to do that."
The day after the hearing, the New York Times team that has been covering the case (Framing Britney Spears was also produced by the news organization, as part of the series of standalone docs The New York Times Presents) published a report about Ingham, whose service to Spears was called into question by her statement in court that she was not aware that filing for termination of the conservatorship was an option; presumably, her lawyer would be a logical person to inform her that that would be one way to pursue her stated wish. The Times piece reported that Ingham has earned almost $3 million over the course of his tenure as Spears' attorney; the New Yorker story reports that his current annual salary (paid by Spears) is $520,000.
On Tuesday, Ingham asked to resign from his role as Spears' lawyer, effective "upon the appointment of new court-appointed counsel." He did not provide a reason.
In addition to Spears' manager and lawyer, one of her official conservators is backing away from its role. The wealth management firm Bessemer Trust, which was instated late last year as co-conservator of Spears' estate alongside her father, requested its removal from the arrangement "on an expedited basis" in court documents filed last Thursday. The filing cites Spears' testimony that she "objects to the continuance of her Conservatorship" as the reason for stepping down, noting that the company "has heard the Conservatee and respects her wishes." The request was approved the following day.
The space filled by Bessemer Trust had previously been occupied by attorney Andrew Wallet, who exited the conservatorship in 2019. Around the same time, Jamie Spears underwent emergency surgery and temporarily stepped down as sole conservator of Britney's person; the singer's care manager Jodi Montgomery assumed the role in the interim. Earlier this year, Ingham requested on his client's behalf that Montgomery permanently take over the position.
Spears' testimony last month was vaguely critical of Montgomery, who, the singer said, "is starting to kind of take it too far with me." Amid all these resignations, however, Montgomery's lawyer released a statement last week to make clear that she wasn't going anywhere: "Ms. Spears as recently as yesterday has asked Ms. Montgomery to continue to serve. Ms. Montgomery will continue to serve as a conservator for as long as Ms. Spears and the Court desire her to do so."
Since then, Montgomery has petitioned the court to allow the "Lucky" singer to hire her own lawyer — without first undergoing an evaluation as to whether she's capable — rather than be appointed another one, as Ingham's resignation noted.
Keeping up with the Spearses
Spears' mother, Lynne Spears, recently filed for Britney to be allowed to hire her own lawyer, citing the pop star's high functionality in recent years — she has released four albums and performed two tours and a residency since the conservatorship began — to support the claim that "her capacity is certainly different today than it was in 2008."
Then there's Spears' father, her conservator of the last 13 years and one of the chief targets of Britney's criticisms in her testimony. "Anything that happened to me had to be approved by my dad," she said at one point, later adding, "The control he had over someone as powerful as me — he loved the control to hurt his own daughter, 100,000 percent."
After the hearing, however, Jamie tried to reassign blame, specifically to Montgomery and Ingham. Six days after his daughter's shocking testimony, his attorney filed court documents claiming he is not "simply not involved in any decisions related to Ms. Spears' personal care of medical or reproductive issues," and stating he was "greatly saddened to hear of his daughter's difficulties and suffering, and he believes that there must be an investigation into those claims."
Montgomery's lawyer replied with a lengthy statement refuting Jamie's assertions about his own lack of involvement — "practically speaking, since everything costs money, no expenditures can happen without going through Mr. Spears and Mr. Spears approving them" — and describing Montgomery as a "tireless advocate" for Britney. With the content of the "Stronger" singer's testimony in mind, such a characterization would indicate that Montgomery ought to pursue emancipation from the arrangement for her charge — which the statement indicated she will.
"It is [Montgomery's] sincere personal wish that Britney continues to make meaningful progress in her well-being so that her conservatorship can be terminated," the statement said. "Ms. Montgomery looks forward to presenting a comprehensive Care Plan to the Court setting forth a path for termination of the conservatorship for Britney, and Ms. Montgomery looks forward to supporting Britney through that process."
It's hard to say where the case will go from here, or who will be representing Spears. She said in her testimony, "The main reason why I'm here is because I want to end the conservatorship without having to be evaluated," but whether she'll be granted that, even with her mother and Montgomery's backing, is unclear. She continues to collect celebrity support — including from former collaborators Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus as well as longtime friend Paris Hilton, whom she mentioned in her testimony — and the #FreeBritney advocates, many of whom rallied outside the courthouse last month, remain committed to her cause.
There's a lot that we still don't know about the case, but more is coming to light each week. There have long been whispers of more documentaries on the horizon, including one at Netflix, and the reporters who have uncovered some of the story's darker secrets will surely follow it through whatever twists lie ahead. Samantha Stark, the director of Framing Britney Spears and one of the New York Times journalists who have been reporting on the case, assured EW the day after the hearing that she was in it for the long haul with Spears: "How could I not be?"
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- Framing Britney Spears director Samantha Stark reacts to pop star's testimony: 'This felt so powerful'
- Framing Britney Spears unravels a heartbreaking pop mystery
- The #FreeBritney movement finds vindication in Britney Spears' hearing: 'We just witnessed history'