EXCLUSIVE: The world was stunned when Britney Spears passionately told a judge after 13 years of near-silence that she wanted her life back – but Kerri Kasem said it’s a troubling case many families can identify with.
“People were shocked and horrified at what Britney had to say, but this is what’s going on with the elderly and vulnerable who are under abusive guardianship,” the 48-year-old told Fox News. “It’s happening across the United States of America. People now need to stand up for not only Britney Spears but for everyone who doesn’t have a famous last name or who has money. Enough is enough.”
The daughter of radio legend Casey Kasem made headlines over the years after she was denied access to her father until winning a legal battle to become his conservator shortly before his death in 2014 at age 82. She is now the founder of Kasem Cares, a group that fights against “unscrupulous guardians and family members that attempt to exploit ailing seniors and separate them from their loved ones.”
Most recently, Kasem has launched a podcast series on Audible titled “Bitter Blood: Kasem vs. Kasem” where she serves as an executive producer. The series promises to shed light on the events preceding her father’s passing and the eventual wrongful death lawsuit filed by his three eldest children and his brother, Deadline reported.
Kasem described Spears’ conservatorship as “criminal behavior.”
“It’s human trafficking of the elderly and the vulnerable,” she said. “And thank God for the #FreeBritney movement. It has shed a light on this horrific criminal behavior.”
Kasem said she hopes the case will further educate families on how conservatorships can be harmful to those who have a voice but are struggling to be heard. The “Visitation Bill” from Kasem Cares, or a variation of it, has been passed in 21 states and counting, giving children the legal right to visit their ailing parents.
“Hopefully legislators across the country will take notice and say, ‘We’ve got to do something about this system and change things so that other people don’t get trapped in this jail sentence – in this hell that they’re living in,'” she said.
Speaking in open court for the first time in the case Wednesday, the pop star condemned her father and others who control the conservatorship, which she said has compelled her to use birth control and take other medications against her will, and prevented her from getting married or having another child.
“This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good,” said the 39-year-old. “I deserve to have a life… I want my life back.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny thanked the singer for her “courageous” words but made no rulings. A long legal process is likely before any decision is made on terminating the conservatorship.
When an attorney representing her co-conservator said the hearing and transcript should be kept sealed if private medical information was to be revealed, the mother of two shouted her down, saying her words should be public.
“They’ve done a good job at exploiting my life,” Spears explained. “So I feel like it should be an open court hearing and they should listen and hear what I have to say.”
Spears went on to say she was forced to take lithium which made her feel “drunk” after rehearsals broke down for a Vegas residency in 2019, which was subsequently canceled.
“I’m not here to be anyone’s slave,” she said.
Spears also accused her father of relishing his power over her, as he showed when she failed a series of psychological tests in 2019 and forced her to go into a mental hospital.
“I cried on the phone for an hour, and he loved every minute of it,” said Spears. “The control he had over someone as powerful as me, as he loved the control to hurt his own daughter 100,000 percent.”
Vivian Thoreen, attorney for Spears’ father, James Spears, gave a brief statement on his behalf after conferring with him during a recess.
“He is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain,” Thoreen said. “Mr. Spears loves his daughter, and misses her very much.”
Jamie serves as co-conservator of his daughter’s finances, and also had control of her life decisions for most of the conservatorship.
Spears said her years-long public silence has falsely created the impression that she approved of her circumstances.
“I’ve lied and told the whole world, ‘I’m OK, I’m happy,’ ” she said. “I’ve been in denial, I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized.”
Spears said she has not felt heard in any of her previous appearances before the court, all of which were sealed from the public.
Her court-appointed attorney, Samuel Ingham III, said he made no attempt to “control, or filter, or edit” his client’s words. He said Spears has not officially asked him to file a petition to end the conservatorship.
Spears said she had done research that showed her conservatorship could be ended without further evaluation of her. But under California law, the burden would be on her to prove she is competent to manage her own affairs, and an intensive investigation and evaluation are probably inevitable before it can come to an end.
The conservatorship was put in place as she underwent a mental health crisis in 2008. She has credited its initial establishment with saving her from financial ruin and keeping her a top-flight pop star.
Her father and his attorneys have emphasized that she and her fortune, which court records put at more than $50 million, remain vulnerable to fraud and manipulation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.