Sam Lutfi testifies in Britney Spears trial
LOS ANGELES (CNN) — Former manager Sam Lutfi claims Britney Spears’ parents defamed, libeled and cheated him out of millions in a battle for control of the pop star and her career.
A book written by Spears’ mother painted Lutfi as a “predator” and a “Svengali” who kept Spears drugged and isolated her from her family so he could control her, his defamation lawsuit against the Spears family alleges.
Lutfi is suing for millions in defamation damages and for money he said he’s owed for being Spears’ personal manager, a job he said he lost when a court appointed her father as her conservator four years ago.
Contrary to implications that he gave Spears drugs, Lutfi testified that he insisted as a condition of his employment with her that she stay clean and sober.
They shook hands on the management agreement in June 2007 only after Spears agreed that he could use drug-detection dogs in her home to check her compliance, he testified.
Those dogs found “a baggie of white powder” in her home on June 13, 2007, he testified. “We flushed it down the toilet.”
Lutfi testified that he urged Britney to reconcile with her parents, including arranging a reunion between the singer and her mother in October. “That is the opposite of a Svengali,” Lutfi lawyer Joseph Schlimmer said.
Lutfi befriended Spears in spring 2007, when she “was very distraught over numerous situations, child custody battle, divorce, career problems and drug problems,” Lutfi testified.
Their friendship began at a time when Spears was estranged from her parents, he said.
She soon asked Lutfi to become her manager, he said. His four-year contract, which would pay him 15% of her gross earnings, was not written but was confirmed by text messages, his lawsuit claimed.
His work with Spears ended after a few months, in February 2008, after she was taken to a Los Angeles hospital for psychiatric treatment.
The book, published in 2008, has subjected him to “hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy,” causing him to suffer a “loss of his reputation, shame, mortification and hurt feelings,” the suit claims.
On the witness stand Tuesday, Lutfi told jurors he met Spears in a Los Angeles nightclub when she asked if she could have his hat. He refused because he needed it to hide his bald head, he said. Spears told him it was refreshing to hear “no,” he said. She got his phone number and soon began calling him, he said.
His first actions after he became her manager included controlling the paparazzi who chased her 24 hours a day, he said. “She was dealing with a lot of anxiety with the way they would follow her,” Lutfi said. She was in “crisis mode” dealing with 20 to 50 photographers following her every move, he said.
Lutfi said he set up an arrangement with the photographers in which he would send them text messages to let them know where she was going as long as they followed his rules. He invited some of the paparrazzi into her home to meet Spears so they “could see her as a human being,” he said.
They also agreed to give her 3 to 6 feet of space so she could walk freely and to stop yelling slurs to provoke her to get a photo to sell, he said. They even began saving her a parking space at her destinations, he said.
Lutfi’s testimony was expected to continue Wednesday.
Earlier Tuesday, the judge ruled that Lutfi’s lawyer could not use Spears’ medical records in the trial.
He argued it was necessary to prove that Lutfi was not secretly drugging Spears to control her.
Spears will not testify in the trial, which began last week. The judge overseeing her conservatorship prohibited her appearance on the witness stand.
Lutfi said he is the co-manager of Courtney Love, the widow of musician Kurt Cobain, and a consultant for his mother’s chain of gas stations.