LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pop star Britney Spears’ former confidante encouraged her to kick her drug habit five years ago, and brought drug-sniffing dogs to her Malibu home and flushed a bag of white powder down the toilet, he testified Tuesday.
“She had wanted to get clean, but she was struggling with it,” the former friend, Sam Lutfi, told jurors in his civil trial in Los Angeles against Spears and her parents.
“I told her she needed to do it because she was the mother of two young sons... I told her that society wouldn’t tolerate a mother who was abusing drugs.”
Lutfi claims that Spears hired him as her manager for several months in 2007 and 2008, after she became estranged from her family and staff in the midst of a personal and professional breakdown.
He is seeking 15 percent of her earnings from that period, which were believed to be $800,000 to $1 million per month.
Attorneys representing Spears argue that Lutfi was never the singer’s manager.
Lutfi said he met Spears in a nightclub in spring of 2007, while she was embroiled in a tough child custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline and struggling to kick drug addiction.
“She wasn’t working. She said that she had fired everybody,” Lutfi said. “She told me that she had fired her agent. She told me that she had fired her manager, her bodyguards, her publicist, as well.”
Spears told him she infamously shaved her head in February 2007 because she was afraid her hair could be tested for drugs and used against her in her child custody battle against Federline, Lutfi testified.
“Britney was involved in a wicked child custody battle,” Lutfi said. “She told me someone had told her that they can scientifically test her hair for a history of drug use, so she shaved it off.”
The trial has torn the veil off Spears’ meltdown when she was twice hospitalized, lost custody of her children, and photographs of her shaving her head and swinging an umbrella made international headlines.
Lutfi is also suing Spears’ mother, alleging she libeled him in her 2008 book, “Through the Storm”, in which she claimed Lutfi destroyed Britney Spears’ telephone lines, may have drugged her food and tried to cut off the singer from her family. He is suing Spears’ father for assault.
Lutfi testified on Tuesday that Spears offered him a job as her manager soon after they met.
Lutfi, a college dropout who dabbled in the entertainment industry, at first doubted he was qualified to take the position, but Spears kept asking, he testified.
Finally, he agreed to take the job, but on two conditions: Britney would stop taking drugs and allow him to bring in an agent and a lawyer to make up for his inexperience.
“She agreed,” Lutfi said. “We even shook hands on it.”
Lutfi said he brought the drug-sniffing dogs to her home on June 13, 2007, as one of his first actions as the pop star’s manager.
He also advised her against going on tour that year because he feared she would have easy access to drugs and would miss out on visits with her young sons, Lutfi testified.
Lutfi said Spears had a drug relapse in September 2007 and called him in October after spending a night in her car. She asked him to move in with her, although their relationship was strictly professional, and never romantic, he said.
Lutfi told jurors he was never compensated for his work and his out-of-pocket expenses were never repaid.
Earlier this week, the record label executive who signed Spears when she was 16 testified that he believed Lutfi was a “gofer” who performed only menial tasks for the “Toxic” singer.
Spears, who has not attended the trial, was placed under her father’s conservatorship in 2008, giving him control of her health and finances. Now 30, she has made a comeback with world tours, hit albums and a new job as a judge on TV talent show “The X Factor.”
Reporting by Brandon Lowrey; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Lisa Shumaker