LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The former confidante of pop star Britney Spears broke down on the witness stand on Wednesday, saying his villainous portrayal in a book written by the singer’s mother triggered a deluge of death threats that drove him into a suicidal depression.
“If I went anywhere public, people were assaulting me,” Sam Lutfi told jurors at a civil trial in Los Angeles.
“People I knew were shunning me. There were numerous postings online on websites ... that were threats to kill me. People wishing that I was dead,” Lutfi said, choking up and beginning to cry. “People wishing harm on my family.”
Lutfi, who emerged as Spears’ closest friend during her 2007 personal and career meltdown, was testifying for the second day in his lawsuit against the “Toxic” superstar and her parents.
He is suing Britney’s mother, Lynne Spears, alleging she libeled him in her 2008 book, “Through the Storm,” and made him a scapegoat for the singer’s problems.
He is also suing Britney Spears for a chunk of her earnings, claiming she hired him as her manager soon after meeting him in 2007. And he is suing her father, Jamie Spears, for assault.
Lutfi said on Wednesday that Spears’ father chased him, punched him and threatened to kill him in her Los Angeles home in early 2008.
“(Jamie Spears) was spitting and shouting, yelling at me, telling me that I had hurt his daughter and I had better leave or he was going to beat the hell out of me,” Lutfi testified.
The trial, which began last week, has offered a glimpse into Spears’ private life during her highly publicized crisis five years ago, including a divorce, a bitter child custody battle, a head-shaving incident and claims of amphetamine abuse.
Lutfi’s tearful testimony provided a stark contrast to his cross-examination, during which Spears family attorneys read details from four restraining orders filed against him since 2004 in which the family, and other associates of Lutfi, accused him of threatening and terrorizing them and their relatives.
Joel Boxer, attorney for Britney Spears’ estate, asked Lutfi if, during the time he claimed he was Britney’s manager, he set up or presented any entertainment industry deals for the singer. Lutfi said no.
Lutfi has said he met Britney Spears at a nightclub in 2007 and that she quickly hired him as her manager and promised him 15 percent of the $800,000-plus she earned each month.
Attorneys representing Spears say Lutfi was preying on the singer during a vulnerable period in her life.
Jurors on Wednesday watched video footage showing a distraught and angry Spears being hounded by paparazzi in 2007. In one clip, the Louisiana native shouted at photographers in a fake British accent. In another, she was seen sitting on the sidewalk, cradling her dog and crying as paparazzi snapped photographs and taunted her.
Spears, now 30, whose personal and business affairs are still overseen by a conservator, has since made a comeback, releasing several hit albums and landing a judging spot on TV talent show “The X-Factor.”
She is not attending the trial and is not expected to testify.
Reporting by Brandon Lowrey; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Xavier Briand