By JAMES ANDERSON and TATIANA FLOWERS, Associated Press
DENVER (AP) — Taylor Swift won $1 and long-awaited vindication after a jury decided that a radio host groped her during a pre-concert photo op four years ago.
After a weeklong trial over dueling lawsuits, jurors determined that fired Denver DJ David Mueller assaulted the pop star by grabbing her backside during a backstage meet-and-greet. The six-woman, two-man jury also found that Swift’s mother and radio liaison were within their rights to contact Mueller’s bosses.
Mueller sued the Swifts and their radio handler, Frank Bell, seeking up to $3 million for his ruined career.
Just before closing arguments, the judge dismissed Taylor Swift from Mueller’s lawsuit, saying he had failed to prove that she sought to get Mueller fired or had any reason to believe that someone else may have assaulted her. U.S. District Judge William Martinez also drastically reduced the amount Mueller could collect.
The singer-songwriter said in her countersuit that she wanted a symbolic $1 and the chance to stand up for other women.
Testimony showed that Swift reported the incident to her mother and others on her team, but that she never sought any specific action regarding Mueller.
From the start, Swift’s side portrayed the encounter as a clear case of sexual assault, even though they never reported it to police. Her mother tearfully testified that she asked Bell to reach out to Mueller’s employers at country station KYGO-FM instead because they wanted to handle the matter quietly and avoid exposing the singer-songwriter to publicity.
Bell contacted a station vice president and asked for an investigation of Mueller’s conduct. He also sent the station executive a photo taken of Swift, Mueller and Mueller’s then-girlfriend at the meet-and-greet.
In a fiery hourlong stint on the witness stand last week, Swift blasted a low-key characterization by Mueller’s attorney, Gabriel McFarland, of what happened. While Mueller testified he never grabbed Swift, she insisted she was groped.
“He stayed attached to my bare ass-cheek as I lurched away from him,” Swift testified.
“It was a definite grab. A very long grab,” she added.
Mueller emphatically denied reaching under the pop star’s skirt or otherwise touching her inappropriately, insisting he touched only her ribs and may have brushed the outside of her skirt as they awkwardly posed for the picture.
That photo was virtually the evidence besides the testimony. In the image shown to jurors during opening statements but not publicly released, Mueller’s hand is behind Swift, just below her waist. Both are smiling. Mueller’s then-girlfriend is standing on the other side of Swift.
Swift testified that after she was groped, she numbly told Mueller and his girlfriend, “Thank you for coming,” and moved on to photos with others waiting in line because she did not want to disappoint them.
But she said she immediately went to her photographer after the meet-and-greet ended and found the photo of her with Mueller, telling the photographer what happened.
Andrea Swift testified that she asked Bell to call Mueller’s employers. They did not call the police to avoid further traumatizing her daughter, she said.
“We absolutely wanted to keep it private, but we didn’t want him to get away with it,” Andrea Swift testified.
Bell said he emailed the photo to Robert Call, KYGO’s general manager, for use in Call’s investigation of Mueller. He said he didn’t ask that Mueller be fired but that “appropriate action be taken.”