It's one step forward, two steps back for Britney Spears.
Just as a Los Angeles judge decided late Wednesday that the singer could resume contact with her children (albeit with supervision), another agency was deciding to investigate Spears on child-abuse claims made by her former bodyguard.
Tony Barretto and his attorney, Gloria Allred, filed a child-abuse referral under the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act and then met with authorities at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services for two hours Wednesday night. "It was our understanding at the end of the meeting that based on our filing that the department will investigate to the best of their ability," Allred said.
Barretto has already made some of these claims, in a court deposition filed September 17 that may have contributed to the restrictions the court placed upon Spears and Federline (see "Britney Spears Must Undergo Regular Drug Testing, Parenting Classes In Custody Case"). At the time, Allred characterized the claims as involving "issues of nudity by Ms. Spears, drug use, and safety issues involving the children post-rehab."
Barretto elaborated on those issues during appearances on the "Today" show on September 24 and "Larry King Live" on September 27. Talking with Matt Lauer on "Today," Barretto claimed he saw Spears do drugs on two occasions: once at a nightclub, when he was holding a curtain to make her area private, and the other in a restroom, when he checked in on her. On "Larry King Live," Barretto elaborated that he observed drugs and drug paraphernalia in one of her hotel rooms. "It was a white, powdery substance that had a straw next to it," Barretto said. "It appeared to be a narcotic ... [and] a pipe. It was a clear pipe. I don't believe it was a crack pipe. I don't know, it could have been marijuana — perhaps a methamphetamine pipe." Based on the singer's appearance and behavior, Barretto added, "I think she was under the influence."
Allred said, however, these claims were not the extent of Barretto's observations. "Some of the details have not been revealed publicly," she said, noting that the specifics of what Barretto disclosed to DCFS are confidential. "Even though the family court orders are a good start, there are resources and services that the Department of Children and Family Services can add to help protect the children," she said. "They can provide the parents assistance in obtaining trained social workers, and they have the legal authority to take other action to help protect the children."
Allred called upon Spears to cooperate with the impending investigation and provide an interview to DCFS. "Rather than avoiding them, she should speak with them as soon as possible and give them the truth," Allred said, "so that they can fulfill their legal mandate to protect the children and keep them safe."
Spears has already been questioned three times by DCFS, about incidents ranging from driving with Sean Preston in her lap instead of a car seat in February 2006; Sean Preston falling out of his high chair at home in April 2006; and a host of tabloid claims, including that she filled baby bottles with soda, in August 2007. Spears was cleared of all complaints.
Officials at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services did not return calls by press time.
For more on Britney's child-custody setback, check out: