Britney Spears's past nightmares came back to haunt Thursday as a trial pitting her former manager against the Spears family got under way in a Los Angeles courtroom.
Sam Lutfi, 38, is suing the pop star, 30 – who's not expected to appear at the trial – for the 15 percent of her earnings that she allegedly promised him in the roughly eight months he served as her manager, starting in mid-2007.
He's also suing her mother, Lynne Spears, for alleging in her 2008 book Through the Storm that he drugged Britney and cut her off from loved ones. And he's suing Britney's father Jamie for allegedly punching him in the chest in January 2008.
Drug AllegationsIn his opening statement, Lutfi's attorney, Joe Schleimer, told the jury that it was the singer's rampant amphetamine use that caused her downfall.
"Most of the things that went wrong related to that habit," said Schleimer, alleging that Britney also suffered from paranoid delusions at the time. "My client sometimes spent 24 hours a day to prevent Britney from using drugs."
Schleimer projected a photo of Spears shaving her head bald in early 2007 and said the singer told Lutfi she did it because she'd heard drug use could be detected by testing hair, and she feared losing custody of her two sons.
The attorney portrayed Lutfi as a calming force in the singer's life who protected her from the unruly mob of paparazzi who constantly tailed her.
Drug Sniffing DogsSchleimer said Lutfi, who hit it off with Spears at a nightclub in early 2007, agreed to be her manager on two conditions: that she allow him to put together a "varsity team" of top lawyers and agents to work on her behalf; and that she stop using drugs. "I don't want to be your manager when you overdose," he allegedly told her.
He insisted on bringing drug-sniffing dogs to her L.A. home to clear it of any contraband, to which she agreed. In June 2007, dogs found a hidden baggie of white powder, which the singer admitted was crystal meth, Schleimer says. They also found drug residue in her carpet, which Lutfi had torn out, according to Schleimer.
Schleimer added that Lutfi served as a mediator between Spears and her family, from whom she had become estranged, and even entered into a joint synthetic-diamond business with Lynne. That plan fell apart after Spears accused her mother of conspiring with Kevin Federline to take custody of her boys away from her, Schleimer said.
HospitalizedSpears's first forced hospitalization, in January 2008, came after she'd been "popping [prescription] pills for 36 hours" and locked herself in a bathroom, Schleimer said, claiming Lutfi was "left alone to deal with this crisis."
Lynne Spears, seated next to Jamie in court, dabbed her eyes with a tissue as Schleimer played video of a night in January 2008 when Britney got out of her car at the front gate of her L.A. home and sat on the curb forlornly with her dog while Lutfi pleaded with her to see her psychiatrist.
The next day, Jamie Spears allegedly barged into Britney's home and punched Lutfi in the chest, which "knocked the wind out of him."
Defamation ClaimSchleimer then quoted from Lynne's book, which claimed Lutfi cut the phone lines in Britney's home, disabled her cars and ground up medication and put it in her food in an attempt to cause a "sleep-induced coma" at the urging of her doctors.
Denying that his client did anything of the sort, Schleimer said Lynne "deliberately distorted [Lutfi's] reputation" to paint him as the cause of Britney's hospitalizations.
Lawyers for the Spears family present their opening arguments on Friday.
Attorneys on both sides declined to comment.
This isn't the first time the Spears family has faced off against Lutfi in a trial: In 2009, a judge slapped a three-year restraining order against Lutfi after he was deemed a threat to the singer's recovery.