Britney Spears won big in her conservatorship case when her father, Jamie, was suspended from his role Wednesday amid allegations of abuse. She's now celebrating on an island getaway, while her attorney continues his "top to bottom" investigation into Jamie's "misconduct," saying "serious ramifications" are ahead.
Jamie's statement following his ousting was defiant. He described his forced exit as "frankly, a loss for Britney." He insisted he's always had the star's "best interests" at heart — going so far as to suggest even more so than her new attorney, Mathew Rosengart.
That's not what Britney has said. At a June hearing, she accused her dad of conservatorship abuse. The star, 39, alleged she was forced to work, take medication and be treated at a mental health treatment facility against her will. Rosengart, who became Britney's attorney in mid-July, has accused Jamie of abusing his control over Britney's finances and dissipating her fortune. He's challenged approximately $2 million Jamie spent — $1.3 million in attorneys’ fees to fight being removed as conservator and a $500,000 payment to her former management company, among others.
But that's the tip of the iceberg. In court Wednesday, Rosengart called Jamie's service "abusive," "toxic" and "cruel," pointing to a shocking New York Times report claiming Britney's phone and bedroom were bugged by security staff working for her father. Her conversations with her boyfriend, sons and previous lawyer were monitored, a former security staffer alleged.
That surveillance was a topic in court Wednesday, despite Jamie's attorney's protests. And when Rosengart left the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, victorious after convincing the judge to suspend Jamie and replace him with temporary conservator John Zabel, he was asked if it was determined that Jamie misappropriated money, if Britney would sue him to get it back.
"Absolutely," the former prosecutor shot back. "The ramifications are going to be more severe than just civil litigation against Mr. Spears based upon my present understanding of what happened."
— Britney Stan 💍 (@BritneyTheStan) September 30, 2021
He elaborated at the press conference as #FreeBritney protestors cheered him on.
“Jamie Spears and others are going to face even more serious ramifications for his misconduct,” he said. "I said at the outset, my firm and I were going to take a top to bottom look at what Jamie Spears and his representatives have done here. That's already in process and it continues [until we get] justice for Britney."
He continued, "I suspect law enforcement — and it's law enforcement's decision, not mine — will be taking a hard look at what the Times uncovered... One question we're going to be asking Mr. Spears's representatives — not just lawyers — is what did they know and when did they know it in regard to eavesdropping, putting a listening device under Britney Spears's bed. In her bedroom. Something that is very, very troubling. That's something for law enforcement, not myself, to make the ultimate conclusion on. But my firm will be looking into it."
So could Jamie eventually be the one seeing his rights stripped — and face some kind of criminal charges?
"Jamie Spears and others face more than claims for monetary damages," California-based family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher of Walzer Melcher tells Yahoo Entertainment.
"Criminal liability exists for the interception of electronic communications and the recording of private activity," he continues. And if Jamie did record and monitor Britney without her knowing, as Alex Vlasov, a former employee of Black Box Security claimed, he "did not act alone, so anyone who participated or conspired with him could also be charged. Each act could carry its own penalties, and this could have gone on for years."
According to Melcher, offenses for recording or intercepting communications "are generally charged as misdemeanors that carry a punishment of up to one year in the county jail."
However, there is a time limit to bring criminal charges, "which could be as little as one year from when the act occurred. It depends on the charges brought. Federal law may provide a better avenue for bringing charges for older conduct."
What really opens this up as far as potential evidence is that Jamie being suspended means that 13 years worth of communication he had with the attorneys for the conservatorship — that he never would expect to be made public due to attorney-client privilege — will now be turned over to the newly appointed temporary conservator of the estate, Zabel. That's because the holder of the attorney-client privilege is whoever is acting as conservator of the estate.
"Those communications could contain powerful evidence," Melcher says.
That is also why Rosengart fought to remove Jamie at Wednesday's hearing, instead of ending the conservatorship. If the conservatorship ended, that privileged communication would have been very hard, or even impossible, to get.
The next hearing for the conservatorship, which will look at terminating it, will be Nov. 12. But for now, the star is celebrating being free from her father’s hold. She’s vacationing with fiancé Sam Asghari on an island in “the Pacific” — and it’s been a clothing optional trip.