Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Britney avoids 'stalker' case
Britney Spears
The singer had been seeking a restraining order
Britney Spears will drop legal action against a Japanese fan she accused of being a stalker.

She is expected to withdraw a request for a restraining order to keep Masahiko Shizawa, 41, of Yokohama, Japan away from her.

The star had said Mr Shizawa sent her hundreds of love letters and photographs and followed her to her homes - but he said he was just an "avid fan".

If the case had not been resolved by Friday, there would have been a full hearing with evidence from both sides.

The two sides had been in negotiations to agree a settlement without the need for a full court case and have now reached an out-of-court agreement, a court spokeswoman said.

Spears is expected to file court papers on Friday to ask for the case to be dismissed, although details of the agreement are not expected to be released.

'Harmless'

The 21-year-old singer had said Mr Shizawa turned up at her houses in Louisiana and Hollywood and wrote "I'm chasing you" on one photograph he sent.

But his lawyer said Mr Shizawa, a computer programmer and inventor, was harmless and the confusion arose from a cultural misunderstanding.

Mr Shizawa returned to Japan when his visa expired but wanted to resolve the issue so he could eventually return to the United States.

Spears is one of the most popular singers in the world, and has cultivated an image as a sex symbol.

She was recently embroiled in another legal case after suing a footwear company for allegedly failing to pay her adequately for marketing their roller skates and accessories.

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Britney Spears
Spears claims the man sent notes to her
Friday, 24 January, 2003, 23:16 GMT
Britney 'misunderstood' fan
Britney Spears has been accused of a "cultural misunderstanding" by a lawyer defending a Japanese man she says stalked her for three months.
The American pop singer filed a request for a restraining order at a Los Angeles court against Masahiko Shizawa of Yokohama, claiming the 41-year-old had "tracked and attempted to contact" her at her house since September.

Mr Shizawa's lawyer told the court his client was "a VIP in Japan" and had "no intent" to harm her.

He's a VIP in Japan - he had no intent
Simon Hiller
lawyer for Masahiko Shizawa

But the 21-year-old singer says that Mr Shizawa called at another of her homes and also at a home used by her parents, both outside California.

Mr Shizawa allegedly sent notes to the pop star saying "I'm chasing you" and refused to leave her property when asked to.

Court order

Ms Spears' lawyer, Joel Strote, asked that Mr Shizawa be banned from coming within 915 metres (1,000 yards) of the singer, and from contacting her at all.

Mr Shizawa was not in court for the restraining order request.

According to a US television show, he has been forced to return to Japan as his visa has expired.

The show also says that Mr Shizawa is a well-respected computer programmer who "made millions of dollars with technology patents" and has no criminal record.

A hearing of the case has been postponed until 28 February.

Time off

The pop singer is currently taking a six-month sabbatical from music.

She has had a troubled year, with her relationship with N'Sync star Justin Timberlake ending and her parents separating.

Her debut movie performance in Crossroads was slated by film critics, and a restaurant she opened in New York suffered a setback after two diners claimed they had suffered food poisoning there.

She has since distanced herself from the venue, called Nyla.

Ms Spears has recently been in Italy staying with fashion mogul Donatella Versace.

Earlier this year her spokespeople denied claims she was planning to take a two-year break from music.
 BBC