What does Britney Spears have to do with racketeering charges?
You might have thought the closest the singer would come to the RICO Act, typically associated with organized crime, would be watching "The Sopranos," but a lawyer who claims to represent the singer is making some serious allegations on her behalf, claiming in federal-court documents that her assets may have been misappropriated. (Her father's lawyers, in the meantime, want the attorney to pay them back for spending time on his claims.)
In a declaration filed Friday, Jon Eardley maintains that the pop star's civil rights have been violated, including her right to be heard "as to the appropriateness" of her father, Jamie Spears, being given co-conservatorship powers over her person and estate. (Jamie, along with attorney Andrew Wallet, were granted the powers when Britney was hospitalized on a psychiatric hold for the second time in a month.) Spears attempted to hire a lawyer, Adam Streisand, to fight the conservatorship, but he stepped down February 7 after the probate court ruled that Britney lacked the capacity to retain direct counsel of her own choosing.
Since then, Eardley has claimed to represent the singer. Lawyers for the conservatorship have called him "an attorney without a client," but Eardley is adamant that, despite the court's ruling that Britney can't hire a lawyer, she did in fact hire him on February 12; she has spoken to him on the phone (until her phone was taken away and disconnected); and she authorizes his allegations, which he filed in part on Friday and plans to continue filing on Monday (February 25). "She is party to this," said Eardley's spokesperson Michael Sands, who also reps the singer's onetime manager Sam Lutfi. "She gave her full authority."
Eardley seeks to move the conservatorship case to federal court and had a deadline of Friday to explain to the court why. In papers filed Friday, Eardley claims he'll offer the court evidence that Spears has been robbed (proof of which he said he'd file under seal on Monday), and that he needed more time to meet the court's deadline but was concerned for the "emotional and physical safety of Britney," because in addition to allegedly being robbed, she's also allegedly being abused. At least for the latter, he's more specific: "Counsel has learned that there has been significant verbal attacks by her live-in father conservator. ... I have been informed of the existence of voice mails, etc., that include verbal abuse." (In a counter-claim, Britney's mother, Lynne Spears, said it was Lutfi who was verbally abusing Britney; Eardley called this perjury and referred to Lutfi as Britney's "best friend.")
But as for the alleged theft, Eardley has yet to name in open court or open documents what specifically has been stolen from the singer (although her father, Jamie, filed a report with the Los Angeles Police Department claiming that valuables had been stolen from her home). Instead, he asked for more time. "Counsel has not had the time to obtain declarations and other evidence in support of this fact," Friday's filing reads. "Counsel will submit on Monday ... an application for leave to amend ... to include federal claims involving witness intimidation, victim intimidation and other federal claims appropriate for this court's review."
Sands claimed the theft is on a grand scale, involving racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering, and that the theft occurred prior to the conservatorship taking place and continues still.
Jeffrey Wexler, one of the lawyers for the conservatorship, told MTV News, "We believe that it would be highly inappropriate for us to comment."
Sands claimed that there is an ongoing criminal investigation into the matter, but declined to say which agency was involved. As a result, he said, his office has been broken into and documents have been allegedly stolen and/or erased from his computer. "Lives have been threatened," Sands said. "People are being intimidated. It's terrorism. I don't want to make any accusations, but we're talking the financial rape of Britney Spears."
Meanwhile, Spears' father is looking for compensation for fighting Eardley over moving the probate case to federal court, asking Eardley to pay him (and thereby Britney) back for almost $43,000 in attorney's fees. In a filing on Monday, attorneys for the conservatorship called Eardley's claims "unsupported factual allegations" and refuted violating the singer's civil rights. If, for instance, she wanted to be heard on the conservatorship in court, they pointed out, she had the opportunity to come to probate court on both February 4 and February 14, but chose not to attend. The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for March 10.