The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

October 14, 2012

Libel trial to focus on Britney Spears' meltdown

(Continued)

Lutfi sued in February 2009, roughly a year after Spears was hospitalized and placed under the conservatorship to take control of her health and finances. The move by Jamie Spears came after months of erratic behavior by his daughter, including shaving her head, speaking in a British accent and other bizarre incidents that also led to her losing custody of her two sons with ex-husband Kevin Federline.

Lutfi was a constant presence around Spears during the tumultuous period. In his court case he maintains that he was trying to help her, though her parents paint a more sinister picture. They say Lutfi drugged and isolated their daughter — cutting her phone line and hiding her cellphones — and used the paparazzi as "henchmen."

Many of the claims were included in court filings used to obtain the conservatorship, but Lynne Spears included them in her 2008 book "Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World." Lutfi is suing for libel and defamation based on three chapters in the book that describe him as a "general" to the paparazzi and portray him as a man trying to manipulate not only the singer, but her mother.

Lutfi claims he was trying to aid Spears' career and help her regain custody of her children. The book's allegations have caused him to be "subjected to unfathomable amounts of ridicule and public scorn," his lawsuit states.

Lutfi's attorney, Joseph Schleimer, and attorneys for the Spears family declined comment on the trial, which may last nearly three weeks.

Lynne Spears' attorney, Stephen Rohde, has noted in pretrial hearings that the burden is on Lutfi to prove that the statements in the book are untrue and that his client knew they were false.

A judge has also limited the case against Jamie Spears, who Lutfi accuses of hitting him in the chest at the singer's house shortly before the conservatorship's establishment. Lutfi is no longer entitled to recoup damages for emotional distress if a jury finds that a battery occurred.

 

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