Britney Spears won’t be sitting for her dad’s so-called “revenge deposition,” a Los Angeles judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Brenda Penny stuck to her tentative order at an afternoon hearing and spared the “Toxic” singer after Britney’s lawyer Mathew Rosengart argued that an in-person grilling by Jamie Spears’ lawyers would leave his client “re-traumatized.”
In her ruling from the bench, the judge said the pop star “likely lacks” any knowledge about her dad’s disputed conduct, including his alleged spying, that couldn’t be obtained through “alternative” means.
“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 superstar 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.
At a hearing two weeks ago, Rosengart called the effort a “revenge deposition,” arguing 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.
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 for services on his daughter’s estate between 2008 and the end of 2020.
Judge Penny did not issue final rulings on the still-pending motions for Rosengart to depose Tri Star executives Robin Greenhill and Lou Taylor. She set a follow-up date of Aug. 24 for a hearing on that matter.
Greenhill and Taylor have been fighting the subpoenas from Britney’s lawyer 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 evidence shows Tri Star unjustly enriched itself with money from Britney’s estate, making more than $18 million in an alleged sweetheart deal, and that Greenhill took part in an effort to control the superstar through surveillance of her private communications.
Rosengart zeroed in on Greenhill after she was singled out in 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.