LOS ANGELES – Britney Spears' self-styled manager took the stand in his defamation lawsuit against her parents on Tuesday, claiming he acted to protect her from paparazzi and others during a critical period in her life.
Sam Lutfi told jurors how he met Spears at a nightclub in May 2007 and said she struck up a conversation by asking him if she could have his hat.
He said he told her no. "She liked that. She doesn't get told `no' often. So it was refreshing to hear `no' once. We started talking, hit it off and she started calling and texting me. We hung out and became friends," he said.
Lutfi described the singer at that time as being "in crisis mode. She was very distraught. She was having a child custody battle and was in the middle of a divorce." He added that she also had drug problems.
Lutfi said he met her right after she had shaved her head during a very public meltdown. "She was dealing with a lot of anxiety," he said.
The witness, whose testimony was interrupted frequently by objections by lawyers for Spears' parents Jamie and Lynne Spears, was asked by his attorney if he took steps to control the press mob that was following her constantly.
Lutfi said he alleviated the problem with photographers by texting them where Spears would be going so they could follow her at a safe distance.
"I also started setting up meetings at her home with press photographers so they could get to know her as a human being," he said, referring to himself as the singer's "manager." He did not say when he became her manager.
In his lawsuit, Lutfi alleges that Lynne Spears defamed him in her book about her daughter's darkest days. She depicted him as a Svengali-like figure who exploited Britney's vulnerabilities and gave her drugs to control her.
He denies those allegations and portrays himself as the singer's protector who managed her career during the period when she was in distress and ultimately hospitalized for mental problems.
Earlier, Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bruguera denied a motion by Lutfi's lawyer to gain access to Spears' medical records from the UCLA neuropsychiatric unit.
The attorney, Joseph Schleimer, said he wanted to know whether the drugs mentioned in Lynne Spears' book were actually in her daughter's system when she was hospitalized.
The judge said it was unlikely that had been determined, and noted the report was inadmissible without testimony from a doctor or other expert witness. The lawyer had listed no such witnesses for the trial.
Lutfi said he attended college but never graduated due to problems with attention deficit disorder, for which he has taken medication for years. He said he works as a consultant in his mother's gas station business and has helped produce music videos for Courtney Love and other rock singers.