Taylor Swift fans are hoping to glimpse the celebrity singer at a Denver federal court Tuesday as her civil trial involving a groping allegation against a former DJ moves forward. (Aug. 8) AP
On the opening day of the Taylor Swift groping trial, a former DJ denied ever touching the pop star’s buttocks at a photo session before her concert in 2013.
Former radio host David Mueller, who sued Swift two years after being fired by his radio station as a result of the encounter, testified Tuesday at the civil trial in Denver that he may have touched Swift’s “rib cage, or rib, or ribs” with a closed hand as he tried to jump into a photo with the celebrity.
The ex-disc jockey said he and Swift were trying to reach around one another and their hands and arms touched during a meet-and-greet that he estimated lasted 40 seconds or less.
Jurors were shown a photo of the encounter, which has been sealed. The photo in question shows Mueller with his hand behind Swift, just below her waist, at the pre-concert event. Swift and Mueller are both smiling in the picture.
“If you look at that photograph, his hand is not underneath Miss Swift’s skirt, and her skirt is not rumpled in any fashion,” said Mueller’s lawyer, Gabriel McFarland.
Swift’s lawyers have called the image “damning” proof that Mueller inappropriately touched her.
Swift, who has countersued Mueller, was present Tuesday in court as an eight-member jury was selected to hear her civil trial.
The pop star’s mom, Andrea Swift, grew emotional in court, crying as opening statements got underway, causing the singer to often look her way, swallow hard or whisper to her lawyer.
Mueller’s lawyer began Tuesday with an opening statement telling the jury that inappropriate touching is offensive and wrong but that “falsely accusing someone of inappropriate touching is equally offensive” and wrong.
During his testimony, Mueller said that he wants to vindicate himself and recoup lost earnings after being fired from his dream job over the claim.
He said he was earning $150,000 under a two-year contract that began six months before the concert.
In his opening statement, Swift’s lawyer Douglas Baldridge was resolute about what occurred before the 2013 concert. “That’s the one and only story we have to tell you — that Mr. Mueller grabbed her rear end,” Baldridge said, also emphasizing the age difference between Mueller, then 51, and Swift, then 23.
Baldridge asked jurors: “What’s wrong with this picture? A woman gets assaulted, a woman reports it, and she gets sued.”
In a twist, Mueller also testified Tuesday that one of his station bosses, Hershel Coomer, told him that he had met Swift earlier before the show and that “he told me that he had his hands on her butt.”
“I thought he was just telling me one of his stories,” Mueller said.
But under aggressive cross-examination, Mueller couldn’t explain why he didn’t tell a boss investigating the incident about the exchange with Coomer.
Swift’s lawyer also repeatedly asked Mueller if he could grasp “any reason, incentive or motive for Miss Swift” to make up the allegation or be involved in two years of litigation.
“I cannot,” Mueller replied, conceding at one point that supervisors had discussed the possibility of letting him go even before the encounter with Swift.
Swift has said she is positive it was Mueller who groped her. Coomer is expected to testify at the civil trial.
Swift’s attorney also said Tuesday that Mueller gave seven accounts of what happened and destroyed taped conversations about it with his bosses who fired him.
The attorney says Swift is seeking a symbolic $1 in her counterclaim and isn’t trying to bankrupt Mueller. He says she’s showing others that “you can always say no.”
Outside the federal courthouse, cameras caught Swift’s fans gathering, some since dawn, to scoop up tickets to sit inside the courtroom once the trial began.
Swift’s publicist, Tree Paine, was seen striding into the courthouse. Many lawyers were spotted, but not Swift, who later appeared in court with her hair in a bun and wearing a demure black dress.
According to the Associated Press, Swift and Mueller were seated at separate tables with their lawyers. As on Monday, Mueller had his back turned to Swift.
The case stems from an encounter the two had during a photo shoot at a meet-and-greet in Denver in 2013. He was fired by his radio station after being accused of inappropriately touching Swift’s “bare bottom” during the photo shoot.
Two years later, he sued Swift, her mother Andrea and her management team, denying he groped her and accusing them of slander and getting him fired.
Swift then countersued him, accusing him of groping her, and denying that she did anything to get him fired.
After two years of hearings and depositions, and no sign that either side would agree to resolve the matter out of court, the case has finally come to trial, which is expected to last nine days.
As is customary in civil trials, potential jurors had to fill out a long questionnaire in which they were asked about whether they are fans of either Mueller or Swift, whether they had ever seen Swift in concert, downloaded or purchased her music, or attended the 2013 concert in question.
Contributing:The Associated Press