For more than a decade, Britney Spears’ decisions have been controlled by other people. Under a 2008 conservatorship, her father, Jamie Spears, oversees the pop star’s multi-million dollar business empire. Spears also alleges that under the arrangement, she’s unable to marry or try to have more children. While fans have been calling to #FreeBritney for years, the arrangement has received renewed scrutiny in recent months, particularly after the release of the New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears in February.
Then, at a hearing last month, Spears asked a court to put an end to the conservatorship. “I feel ganged up on, I feel bullied and I feel left out and alone,” Spears said, according to NPR. “And I’m tired of feeling alone.” It was one of few times Spears has publicly weighed in on the situation, and the message was clear: Let me out.
On Saturday, Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino, both writers for the New Yorker, published an investigation into how the conservatorship came to be. As Farrow notes on Twitter, “Dozens of sources reveal how Britney Spears was stripped of her rights, from the ten minute hearing that approved the plan with no questions—and a witness who now regrets it—to a recent 911 call from Spears.” (According to “a person close to Spears and to law enforcement in Ventura County,” Farrow and Tolentino write, “Spears called 911 to report herself as a victim of conservatorship abuse” the night before last month’s hearing.)
Among the more disturbing details comes from a scene shortly after the conservatorship had been granted. In it, Jacqueline Butcher, then a Spears family friend, recalls a conversation between Jamie, Britney’s mother Lynne Spears, and Geraldine Wyle, Jamie’s attorney:
The group went from the courtroom to Wyle’s law office. As Jamie spoke with Wyle in a frosted-glass conference room, and Lynne and Butcher sat in a waiting area nearby, Butcher asked Lynne, “Don’t you think you and Jamie should be co-conservators together?” Spears’s relationship with Jamie, who could be domineering and hostile toward his daughter, was strained. Butcher recalled Lynne replying that the conservatorship would last only a few months, and that it would be best for Spears to resent Jamie, rather than her, when it was all over. But, after they joined Jamie in the conference room, Butcher said, Lynne began talking about her hopes for how the conservatorship would be managed, prompting Jamie to shout about his control over his daughter’s life, including Lynne’s access to her. At one point, Butcher recalled him bellowing, “I am Britney Spears!” It was a refrain she would hear him repeat often during the early years of the conservatorship, she said. Lynne, as Butcher remembered it, grew quiet.
Read the full report here.