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At Spears trial, a focus on home

A paparazzo says pop star spends most of her time in California. Her father disagrees.

October 17, 2008|Harriet Ryan | Times Staff Writer

To establish himself as an expert on Britney Spears, the witness turned to the jury and laid out his credentials.

"The picture [in which] she shaved her head? The picture [in which] she used the umbrella? That's me," tabloid photographer Sandro Rodrigues said Thursday at the performer's trial on a charge of driving without a license.

Rodrigues, who supervises a daily stakeout of Spears' home for the X17 paparazzi agency, was summoned to the stand by a prosecutor trying to prove that the pop singer spends most of her time in Los Angeles and should therefore have a California license. Spears had a Louisiana license when she was involved in a fender-bender last year.

The photographer estimated that she is in the Golden State 80% of the time, noting, "We follow her from the house to the airport."

Testimony in the case concluded in a few hours Thursday. Closing arguments are set for today. Spears, who faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor, opted not to attend the trial.

Her views, however, were represented in court by her father, Jamie, who has been the conservator of her estate since her well-publicized mental breakdown earlier this year. In an accent as thick as gumbo, Jamie Spears said his daughter was living in California only because of the child custody arrangement with her ex-husband, Kevin Federline.

"Louisiana is her home," he said. "She was born and raised there."

He said Spears was building a second home in Louisiana; she also owns property in Florida, California and New York. She is registered to vote there and planned to move back "when we can travel with the kids," he said.

Federline has custody of their two boys, with Spears caring for them three days a week.

Jamie Spears, who worked as a cook before assuming responsibility for his daughter's health and business, appeared nervous and uncomfortable on the stand. In response to a question about the job of a conservator, he looked perplexed for several seconds and then said, "I take care of her." Asked by her attorney how she was doing, he said tersely, "Doing good."

After his testimony, defense attorney Michael Flanagan approached him in the spectator's gallery and asked if there was any way he could arrange for his daughter to testify. "No," he said with a firm shake of his head.

His serious demeanor contrasted sharply with Rodrigues' testimony. Jurors seemed aghast and amused as he recounted round-the-clock stakeouts. He told them that this week, he caught Spears sneaking out of her Studio City home in a gardener's truck. Less experienced photographers were fooled, he said, but not him. "Between the plants, it was Britney Spears," he said with a smile.

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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