Britney Spears made a last-ditch 911 call on the eve of her June 22 explosive conservatorship testimony saying she was a victim of abuse, according to a new investigation by Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino published in The New Yorker Saturday.
According to Farrow and Tolentino, the call sent members of Spears’ team into a frenzy, reportedly texting each other in concern over what the singer would say during the hearing. They reportedly discussed it as, “how to prepare in the event that she went rogue.”
Although emergency calls are on public record in California, the county sealed the records of Spears’ call, citing the circumstances surrounding the profile-case. Farrow and Tolentino confirmed its existence by corroborating with friends of Spears and law enforcement in Ventura County, where she lives.
Since her father Jamie Spears implemented the conservatorship in 2008, Spears has said that it had been used to control her choices about her finances, her performing schedule and her health. In the testimony, she claimed that she has not been allowed to get married or remove her IUD to have more children. She also alleges that the doctors chosen by the conservators over-medicated her.
The 911 call takes on great significance in the story of Spears’ fight for independence given other new details the investigation provides. People close to her say that the singer’s phone is closely monitored by her team and that she only calls or texts people when she can get her hands on another phone.
“Last time she called me, she was at Ralphs, in Calabasas,” friend Sam Lufti told the reporters. “After she hung up, I got a call from the same number—it’s an Asian doctor, who says, ‘Wow, this is surreal, Britney just borrowed my phone.’ Five years ago, she borrowed a phone at the gym and just made off with it.”
The conservatorship was conceived in response to a 2008 incident that led to Spears being involuntarily hospitalized for a mental health episode (aka 5150’d). She was unhappy with the custody agreement between she and ex-husband Kevin Federline over their two sons, Preston and Jayden.
Jacqueline Butcher, a family friend that has since denounced the conservatorship, told Farrow that any of Spears’ attempts to get in contact with her own legal representation were thwarted by Jamie from early on, alleging that whenever he’d get wind of his daughter’s contraband phones, he’d order housekeepers to confiscate them.
The New Yorker piece also unearths the dubious circumstances surrounding the agreement’s inception, drawing on interviews with several people from Spears’s inner circle.
The reporters lay out the scene like this.
“Early in January, 2008, as a visit with her boys came to an end, Spears began to cry. ‘I just want to keep my kids with me,’ she said. ‘Why do they have to go?'” Farrow and Tolentino wrote. “A bodyguard had arrived to take the kids back to Federline’s house. Every extra minute with them put her in violation of the custody agreement: she could either give up the kids at that moment or give up the right to see them later. Eventually, she handed Preston to the bodyguard, but she went into a bathroom with Jayden and refused to come out…Federline’s lawyer called the police and the fire department, which in turn called an ambulance.”
From there, Farrow and Tolentino said that the case moved “remarkably fast” for those of its kind.
“The whole process was maybe 10 minutes,” Butcher told Farrow. “No one testified. No questions were asked.” She added, “A conservatorship was granted without ever talking to her.”
According to the article, the conservatorship proceedings were held while Spears was in the UCLA Medical Center, having been 5150’d again just days prior. Butcher said that the singer had “no input” into the matter, claiming she “never had a chance.”
California requires that conservatees be given five days’ notice before a conservatorship takes effect, but this can be bypassed if a judge decides that they could suffer “immediate and substantial harm.”
The judge assigned to the conservatorship, Judge Reva Goetz, disputed Butcher’s claims when presented for comment by the journalists.
Less than a week after Spears’s bombshell court appearance, Jamie’s lawyers reportedly requested an investigation into the validity of his daughter’s statements. Britney’s personal legal team expects him to attempt to undermine her claims in future appearances.
Farrow and Tolentino ultimately concluded that, upon consulting disability rights lawyers and other experts, the idea that even Spears needs this conservatorship is “self-reinforcing.”
“If a conservatee functions well under conservatorship, it can be framed as proof of the arrangement’s necessity,” they write. “If a conservatee struggles under conservatorship, the same conclusion can be drawn.”