- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Allegations of a mysterious jet sale to a corporation, forced IUD, cronyism between judges and lawyers, hacked phones, disappearing social media posts and captions, changing names of registered agents on the same day, and even possible attempted murder. If you think this is a John Grisham novel, think again. It’s Britney, bitch. Since 2008, Britney Spears has been under a conservatorship that is usually reserved for people who are incapacitated and in a coma, with her father Jamie Spears in control of her estate. All while, she has been leading Vegas residencies, recording, touring, remembering lyrics and dance moves and making millions.
Mathew Rosengart, Britney’s new lawyer, a former federal prosecutor, has petitioned for Jamie Spears to be replaced with a forensic accountant. “Any father who genuinely loves his daughter and has her best interests at heart should willingly step aside in favor of the highly respected professional fiduciary nominated here,” Rosengart wrote in the petition, which is supported by Jodi Montgomery, Britney’s conservator of the person (who filed a petition to remove Jamie, too) and her mother, Lynne Spears, whose lawyer characterized the conservatorship (which had billed $500,000 for media matters), as “lawyers gone wild.”
“Indeed, serious questions abound concerning Mr Spears’s potential misconduct, including conflicts of interest, conservatorship abuse and the evident dissipation of Ms. Spears’s fortune, which Mr Spears has effectively controlled since 2008,” Rosengart wrote in the legal document. Even though her conservator says she is worth just $59 million, Forbes has questioned her low net worth compared to her peers, and her own brother says her perfume empire alone is worth billions of dollars.
Despite positive new developments on the legal side, Britney’s Army, a battalion of mini detectives in the #FreeBritney movement, claims to have done more to uncover wrongdoing than any professional investigator. And it is this cabal of mini-investigators that makes the case of Britney Spears so utterly compelling.
No ragtag bunch, key players in the movement include professionals: lawyers, marketing executives, data analysts and physicians. Their approach is intelligent and far from “fringe” and they have used the power of social media to uncover alleged corruption in this conservatorship. This includes court documents showing her former manager Larry Rudolph allegedly saying people used her kids as the carrot to convince Britney to enter the conservatorship, and a video where her former assistant, Robin Greenhill, said with a smirk, “She’s gonna work” on her birthday, seemingly giving credence to Britney’s testimony which equated her situation to sex trafficking.
Britney’s Army formed in April 2019 during the nascent days of #FreeBritney, after an “emergency episode” of the Britney’s Gram podcast was released. In that episode, it was reported that an anonymous lawyer — formerly part of the firm that oversees Britney’s conservatorship — had left an explosive voicemail for the podcaster hosts, Tess Parker and Babs Gray. The voicemail said that Britney had been put in a mental health facility for months against her will. And the Army is the self-identified group of people actively working to help investigate and remove Britney from her conservatorship, as opposed to the supportive social media group behind #FreeBritney.
It was the Army that says it discovered Britney’s former business manager (and her sister’s current one) was the registered agent for multiple companies, but her name was taken off those companies and replaced by a general registered agent (E-registered agent) between July 7 and July 9, 2021.
The Army claims it uncovered that Britney’s sister Jamie Lynn — who says she does not benefit from Britney’s money — became trustee of the SJB Revocable Trust in 2018, which is a trust Britney created in 2004 intended to hold money which would transfer to her sons upon her death. The Army also claims that Jamie Lynn attempted to transfer hundreds of millions to Stonebridge, a blocked account with ties to her former business manager, and that her conservators tried to transfer Britney’s trademark. Then co-conservator Andrew Wallet and Jamie Spears allegedly tried to make themselves the owner of Britney, the brand, by filing a request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (which was rejected).
The Army wants Rosengart to file to dissolve the conservatorship after he gets Jamie out, claiming that it is unconstitutional and no medical capacity declaration was ever filed. Various attorneys in the Army movement even offer pro bono legal protection if you worked for Britney and want to break your NDA, or if you are being sued or silenced by the conservatorship team.
I spoke with key members of Britney’s Army to get a sense of their dedication and their methods.
Jake Sandt, of the YouTube channel Deep Dive, says he got involved because he saw a vulnerable woman in the public eye being taken advantage of and felt compelled to help: “I’m Generation Z, and we stopped trusting the TMZ narrative saying Britney was crazy and needed the conservatorship. So using the Wayback Machine and court documents, we looked into the underhanded stuff that was happening back in 2007 when Britney had fired her team. Lynne Spears’ book Through the Storm said plans were underway for six weeks to put Britney into the conservatorship before the 5150 hold was executed. Britney wasn’t allowed to have a lawyer, and was denied due process by the original judge, Reva Goetz. It was supposed to be temporary. They said that she could get out of the conservatorship before the Circus Tour. And then they made it permanent and used her kids against her.”
“We don’t have complete access to the case, because much is sealed and redacted,” says BJ Courville, also known as That Surprise Witness , an attorney who has been involved in the movement over a year and has heard Britney testify twice in court hearings, one of which she attended in person. “But Britney’s Army doesn’t have any financial interest in it, unlike every person making money from the conservatorship.”
Even Bessemer Trust, nominated to be co-conservator (who resigned after Britney’s explosive court testimony), was supposedly an independent and neutral fiduciary, but Courville found out otherwise: “The lawyer for Bessemer, Bruce Ross worked with Jamie Spear’s lawyer Vivian Thoreen for years at Holland and Knight, is cited as his right hand in the National Law Journal. The two lawyers who were supposed to be opposed in the case of disagreements were old buddies, which calls into question whether there really is any independence.”
Kevin Wu is a co-manager of Free Britney L.A., a website for the movement that offers information on hearings, conservatorship news, action steps and upcoming #FreeBritney rallies and other events in Los Angeles. Wu attended his first rally after hearing the Britney’s Gram podcast with the emergency voicemail message: “I thought, someone’s civil rights is at stake, plus it’s a systemic issue. There are new discoveries daily. Some of the info needs vetting. We try to stick to credible sources, court documents and things verified by the Federal Communications Commission.”
“The Free Britney movement democratized justice,” says Courville. “It said: we’re going to look at your Venmo payments. We’re going to look through your followers on Instagram. We’re going to look where you parked your car last week, if it’s publicly available, because you have sealed what’s actually going on in this case.”
With the work of the Army, the recent viral New Yorker article about “Britney’s conservatorship nightmare”, the Toxic Podcast (by Britney’s Gram), the New-York Times Emmy-nominated documentary Framing Britney Spears (and an upcoming documentary from Netflix), the movement has gained massive traction and credibility in the past few years. “People said it was a conspiracy theory,” says Courville. “But now when you see the Britney Army they are not talking about a yellow shirt, they are talking the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, the Fifth Amendment right to due process, the Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law and First Amendment right to freedom of association and that’s why Britney will be free.”
Britney is expected to appear at the courthouse for a hearing on removing her father Jamie as conservator of the estate on September 29th and replacing him with forensic accountant, Jason Rubin. At the same hearing, the court will consider Jodi Montgomery’s $50,0000 request for security, as she claims she has received threats against her personal safety since becoming involved with the conservatorship. Free Britney L.A plans to hold a rally that day.
The conservatorship has been defended by members of Spears’ family as a necessary protection for her due to her mental health. Many know that her initial breakdown played out before the paparazzi, when she shaved her head and attacked a car with an umbrella while embroiled in a custody battle with her ex-husband. Indeed, when the arrangement was first put in place, Britney’s father Jamie was seen as a hero and a driving force in allowing her to continue her career while being protected from toxic influences.
But the Army disagrees — and is ever vigilant. Their latest concern is federally funded human ownership. “There is a misnamed bill, The Free Act, which is an attempt for the government to get in on the conservatorship money racket by making millions of dollars of grants available to states,” says Courville in a recent video. “A better way would be for the government to fund home aides who leave at night, to keep a person’s dignity and autonomy.”
“This issue is bigger than Britney Spears,” says Wu. “Conservatorship abuse affects thousands. The movement has the power to affect change.”
Estelle Erasmus is an award-winning journalist and writing coach. She teaches journalism classes at New York University’s School of Professional Studies, is the podcast creator/host for ASJA Direct from The American Society of Journalists and Authors, is a member of The American Society of Magazine Editors and Women’s Media Group, and writes the “All About the Pitch” column for Writer’s Digest. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram