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Britney Spears' father opposes his replacement, reiterates support for ending conservatorship

Jamie Spears argued in a new filing that John Zabel, a certified public accountant, was unqualified to take over his daughter's $60 million estate.
Image: Britney Spears performs on Dec. 3, 2016 in San Jose, Calif.
Britney Spears performs Dec. 3, 2016, in San Jose, Calif.C Flanigan / FilmMagic

Britney Spears' father said Monday that he opposes his temporary replacement as conservator of his daughter's estate and repeated his support for ending her conservatorship.

In a response to a petition to appoint a temporary conservator, Spears' father, James "Jamie" Spears, argued that John Zabel, a certified public accountant, "does not appear to have the background and experience required to take over" his daughter's $60 million estate, citing public records that he alleged showed that Zabel had been scammed out of more than "one million of his own money in a fraudulent real estate project."

He added that Zabel's being an accountant doesn't make him "'highly qualified' to serve as a fiduciary, especially as a conservator."

"This is not a situation where a layperson could step in and learn on the job, as it appears Mr. Zabel would have to do," Jamie Spears said in his filing. "Therefore, it would not be in the best interests of the Conservatee for the Court."

In a supplemental filing Monday to a petition to end the conservatorship, Jamie Spears reiterated his support for suspending the court-approved arrangement entirely, which he admitted would make all of the other pending petitions and following responses "moot."

Mathew Rosengart, Britney Spears' attorney, filed an objection Tuesday to a request by Jamie Spears to approve payment for fees associated with the conservatorship, calling some of the expenses into question, such as more than $427,000 a company charged for “general admin” work.

Rosengart has accused Jamie Spears of mismanaging his daughter’s finances, profiting from the conservatorship and using Britney Spears’ estate to pay to rehabilitate his public image.

In a footnote to the filing, Rosengart briefly responded in defense of Zabel’s record as a “nationally-recognized award-winning CPA,” which he said was “in stark contrast to Mr. Spears, a reported alcoholic and gambling addict, with zero financial background or experience in financial matters, who previously filed for bankruptcy and has a Domestic Violence Restraining Order currently in effect against him.”

“Mr. Spears’s desperation to avoid suspension is self-evident and self-serving. He wants to escape justice and accountability (but will not) and he will evidently do or say anything to avoid it,” Rosengart said.

The documents were the latest onslaught of court filings from both parties ahead of Britney Spears’ hearing Wednesday.

Early Monday, Rosengart said allegations that her father was surreptitiously recording her and monitoring her communications were “unfathomable” in a court filing, offering it as further evidence to remove him from her case.

The New York Times’ “Controlling Britney” documentary, which FX and Hulu debuted Friday, included allegations that Jamie Spears had recording devices planted in his daughter’s home. A former assistant to Black Box Security, a firm employed by the conservatorship, alleged that Jamie Spears asked to monitor all of Britney Spears’ communications, including those to Samuel Ingham, her former attorney.

“Unauthorized recording or monitoring of Britney’s private communications — especially attorney-client communications, which are a sacrosanct part of the legal system — represent an unconscionable and disgraceful violation of her privacy rights and a striking example of the deprivation of her civil liberties,” Rosengart said in a statement Monday.

Vivian Thoreen, an attorney for Jamie Spears, said her client has “dedicated his life” to helping his daughter turn her life around.

“Jamie does not answer to the court of public opinion; he answers to a court of law, the probate court,” Thoreen said in a statement after the release of the Times documentary. “All of his actions were well within the parameters of the authority conferred upon him by the court. His actions were done with the knowledge and consent of Britney, her court-appointed attorney, and/or the court.”

Edan Yemini, the CEO of Black Box Security, did not respond to detailed questions about the allegations, according to The Times.

The Times' documentary is a follow-up to “Framing Britney Spears,” which debuted in February and helped put the #FreeBritney movement in the spotlight.

In a court filing Monday, Rosengart cited the claims as further evidence that Jamie Spears should be removed. A petition to replace him with a professional accountant, which was filed in July, will be reviewed by a judge Wednesday.

He argued that the allegations don’t need to be proven to remove Jamie Spears, only that they serve against his client’s best interest. Rosengart said Jamie Spears’ recent filings were “subterfuge, designed to avoid the stigma of being suspended and its consequences.”

“As a result of these deeply-disturbing allegations, Mr. Spears will inevitably be focused over the next several days and weeks on defending his own interests not his daughter’s (yet again),” the filing said. “And regardless of the outcome of the allegations, what cannot be genuinely disputed is how deeply upsetting they are to Ms. Spears and if nothing else, they magnify the need to suspend Mr. Spears immediately.”

Jamie Spears filed a petition this month to terminate the conservatorship entirely, which the judge is also expected to review this week. The move shocked many, as Jamie Spears has continued to defend his role as conservator and said his daughter was “mentally sick” in a court filing just weeks before.

The termination petition asked the court to end the legal guardianship without further psychological evaluation, which Britney Spears asked for in her June 23 testimony.

“The conservatorship has helped Ms. Spears get through a major life crisis, rehabilitate and advance her career, and put her finances and her affairs in order. But recently, things have changed,” the filing said. “Ms. Spears is now outspoken in her frustration with the level of control imposed by a conservatorship, and has pleaded with this Court to 'let her have her life back.’”

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny is expected to rule on the petition Wednesday.

CORRECTION (Sept. 28, 2021, 6:10 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the accusations in a court filing by Jamie Spears regarding John Zabel and a fraudulent real estate project. The filing alleges that Zabel was the victim of a scam in which he lost more than $1 million, not that he committed the fraud.