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Soon Britney Spears in Court Hearing Trying to End Conservatorship; First Congressional Hearing on January 6 Capitol Attack Is Set for July 27; CDC Says 2020 Worst Year for Drug Overdoses. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: In about an hour, Britney Spears will take part in another court hearing. You know, she's trying to end her 13- year long conservatorship. It's been three weeks since she gave that powerful testimony. She described the arrangement as abusive. She said she had been forced to perform. Had been given lithium against her will and is being prevented from having children.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas is outside of the courthouse in L.A. So Chloe what could the judge potentially decide today?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Victor and Alisyn, today is arguably the most important hearing of Britney's 13-year conservatorship.

Why? Well, that's because Britney Spears's attorney of 13 years, Samuel D. Ingham recently resigned and now Britney Spears has asked the judge repeatedly to allow her to pick her own lawyer. Judge Brenda Penny is going to be that this afternoon.

There are numerous petitions on the table and also another resignation to address. The resignation of wealth management firm Bessemer Trust that has been serving as the co-conservator of Britney's estate but not for very long. Also as you know, recently, Britney's long time manager Larry Rudolph of 25 years has resigned.

So there are a lot of things on the table today for Judge Brenda Penny to be deciding on and also Britney is going to be expected to attend virtually. Not the audio feed, you guys, has been cut off and I'm going to be in the courtroom as you can see behind me. The Free Britney Movement is in full effect. Reporters from all over the world.

You know, there always is that chance that maybe Britney could appear in person. I did see Matthew Rosengart earlier today, former Federal prosecutor, and I recently reported that he's been talking with Britney to represent her. But he had no comment. But it's really going to be interesting to see if Britney is going to be able to finally choose her own attorney.

BLACKWELL: Quickly, do you expect that we'll hear from -- you will her while you're in the courtroom?

MELAS: Yes, I mean we are expecting Britney to be calling in. We don't know what she's going to say.


But we do know that she has been in these conversations with Matthew Rosengart, and I saw him. And so we do know that Britney will probably say, Judge Brenda Penny, this is who I want to represent me. But it could go south. Judge Brenda Penny could say, look, I'm going to appoint a guardian ad litem to actually help you meet with other counsels. Or I'm going to appoint somebody else. So it might not be the answer that Britney has been wanting.

BLACKWELL: Chloe Melas for us outside the courthouse there, thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: All right, let's bring in Mina Sirkin. She's a probate attorney in Los Angeles. And an expert in these conservatorship laws. Mina, thank you so much for being here. In your experience, what do you think is going to happen in court today?

MINA SIRKIN, ATTORNEY: I think the most important thing that's going to happen today is the court is going to be looking for that 2014 order that determined whether or not Britney has the ability to make her own medical decisions. That's going to change a lot of things in this case. I think it bears a lot on her ability to make decisions regarding her IUD, regarding the ability to take medication or not take medication in this case.

So I think that's going to be the primary item on the court's agenda today. But at the same time --

CAMEROTA: I just want to interrupt there for a second. Because that was one of the bomb shells from when she called into court the last time. That she says that she was basically forced to be on lithium. And she says that this is why she doesn't want another psychological analysis because she says that when she gets them, she's not told what the outcome is and then suddenly she's forced.

Here is what she said, she said three days later after I said no to performing in Vegas, my therapist sat me down in a room and said he had a million phone calls about how I was not cooperating in rehearsals and I haven't been taking my medication. All of this was false. He immediately the next day put me on lithium out of nowhere. He took me off my normal meds, I've been on for 5 years. And lithium is a very, very strong and completely different medication compared to what I was used to.

So you're saying that today she might be granted the power to control the intake of her own medication.

SIRKIN: That's correct. In probate conservatorships people who are under 65 years of age and don't have dementia cannot be ordered to take medication against their will. That's for another type of conservatorship called and LPS Conservatorship which this is not.

CAMEROTA: Well, then, I mean why has this been happening to her in that case?

SIRKIN: I'm not sure if her therapists have actually told her that she's not obligated to do that. But nonetheless, you know, lithium is a pretty powerful drug. It's given in very exceptional circumstances to people. So I'm not certain if her doctors had prescribed it but whether or not they did prescribe it, this court cannot order that she be forced to take that medication.

CAMEROTA: Mina, I know that you -- look, I have to assume that a lot of this is about money, if not all of this being about money. Because so many people around Britney are controlling her money and paying themselves. And I know that you have looked into the court documents. Have you been able to figure out how much her father, Jamie Spears, has been giving himself for a salary or how much her personal conservator has been getting?

SIRKIN: Yes, I have. I've had an opportunity to take a look at the court documents and it looks like before the court today, there are a number of figures. And some of those figures are that Mr. Spears had requested $16,000 a month and if you add that up to annually, it's $192,000 a year. And the request by Jodie Montgomery who's the conservator of -- the temporary conservator of the person, is approximately 221,000. If you just add --


SIRKIN: -- those two figures, well --

CAMEROTA: So the people that the people that Britney doesn't want -- sorry to interrupt. The people that Britney does not want any more to control the decisions, to control her money are making basically $200,000 or more a year. Is there any way that that could end today?

SIRKIN: Well, it would only -- as for her father would only end if her father is removed as the conservator of the estate. Right now, he's unfortunately the only game in town because Bessemer Trust is seeking to leave the case. So he's still in that position.

But it is possible that another conservator of the estate may come in. But lots of this has to do with, you know, out of the totality of the money that she's earned per year, what is a reasonable sum for a conservator? Because this is an all-consuming event. Once you become the conservator of someone's estate who is in show business practically all of your time is taken up.


CAMEROTA: Is that reasonable? I mean so from your experience, so that $200,000 times 13 years of this, is that reasonable that that's what

they have been extracting? SIRKIN: I'm not sure if for the entire duration of the 13 years he's

been getting that amount, that's only the amount that he's requesting now. But assuming that that's the case, if you are dedicating your entire month to the Britney Spears business ventures, I can assume that that's not an unreasonable amount as far as the conservator of the estate is concerned.

CAMEROTA: OK, Mina Sirkin, it's great to be able to rely on your expertise with this. We have so many questions. Obviously, we'll have more after today's hearing. Thank you very much for being here.

SIRKIN: Thank you for having me. Bye, bye.

BLACKWELL: The more I learn about this, the more fascinating it becomes. All the different elements here.

CAMEROTA: I agree. And who is making these decisions?

BLACKWELL: Not Britney.

CAMEROTA: Why not Britney?


CAMEROTA: We'll see what happens today, Chloe will bring us that breaking news as soon as it happens.

OK, so next, the majority of the American people already support it. Will Congress actually pass a law to legalize marijuana? Senate Democrats are giving it a go.



CAMEROTA: OK, we are just getting new information in about when the first hearing will be held in that January 6th Select Committee and who will testify. So let's get right to CNN Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles. Ryan, what have you learned?

RYAN NOBLES. CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Alisyn and Victor, the House Select Committee designed to investigate the Capitol insurrection on January 6th just announced that they will hold their first hearing on July 27th. And the first people that they will be hearing from are those law enforcements officers that were on the front lines that day.

This something that the chair of this select committee Bennie Thompson has been teasing for some time saying that he wanted to hear directly from those that were impacted the most on January 6th. And we also know that some of those Capitol Police officers and metropolitan police officers have already been asked to save the date to appear on July 27th.

This is significant that they have already announced the date in part because we still don't know who the five Republican appointees from the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be. He's yet to name his five panelists to this committee. So that remains an open question. Maybe that comes next week. But regardless, this is a sign that Democrats are ready to move forward even if McCarthy doesn't make that move.

BLACKWELL: All right, about two weeks out from the start of that. Let's talk about what's happening today. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer getting behind a plan to legalize marijuana. Tell us about that.

NOBLES: Yes, Victor, this is really significant. It's the first time that you've seen someone as powerful in Washington as the Senate Majority Leader get behind the idea of decriminalizing cannabis across the entire United States. Of course, there's a patch work of laws right now state by state in dealing with recreational use of marijuana. This would be the first attempt to decriminalize it across the entire country. It is still illegal at the federal level.

And one of the things that you heard the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer talk about was not just the decriminalization but also going back and looking at the sentences and the criminal convictions of the millions of Americans who had been convicted in marijuana-related crimes and how it disproportionately affects people of color and that they're going to do something to fix that as well. This is the first step though I should say in a very long process -- Victor and Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: All right, Ryan Nobles for us there on Capitol Hill with the breaking news. Ryan, thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, still ahead, more Haitians are added to the suspect list in the assassination of that country's president.

BLACKWELL: Plus Cuba continues its crackdown on people protesting the dire economic situation there. Updates from our CNN reporters around the world.



BLACKWELL: The anti-government protests and arrests are continuing in Cuba, and Haiti is adding more names to the lists of suspects in the assassination of its president. Let's check in now with our correspondents around the world.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Patrick Oppmann in Havana where the government crackdown on the protestors who took to the streets by the thousands calling for change continues. It's unclear how many people have been arrested at this point. One activist group says they know of more than 100 activists and protestors that are either detained or missing and there are possibly hundreds more that have been arrested.

The Cuban government did confirm that one man died on Monday after he tried to confront police. They said there have been videos uploaded that show heavily outfitted Cuban police carrying guns and riot gear going into people's homes to arrest them. The Cuban government says they have the right to defend their revolution and they will do whatever is necessary.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matt Rivers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Up until now only foreign nationals had officially been listed as suspects in the assassination of Haiti's president. But it was yesterday evening that CNN got word from a government source here in Port-au-Prince that Haitians have now been added to that list as well.

Ten Haitian citizens officially added to this suspect list. That brings the overall number of suspects in this case to 39. We know all 10 of those Haitians remain at large at this point. The government officially named three of those 10 people. One of them is a former senator from here in Haiti. The three officially named suspects are also accused of murder, attempted murder, and armed robbery. They join the 26 Colombians and three American citizens on that suspect list.


CAMEROTA: Thanks to our correspondents there.


Now this, a new book, details just how much Facebook knew about Russian interference during the 2016 election. And what the company did to stop it. One of the authors of "An Ugly Truth" speaks to CNN.


CAMEROTA: Here's another example of the dangerous fallout from this pandemic. The CDC just reported that drug overdose deaths rose by close to 30 percent in 2020. That's the highest number ever recorded.

BLACKWELL: More than 93,000 Americans died from an overdose. The primary causes were fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, prescription pain medications. If you or someone you know is struggling, call the National Substance Abuse Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

The Lead with Jake Tapper starts right now.