Taylor Swift sexual assault trial

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Mueller v. Swift
Colorado-seal.png
CourtUnited States District Court for the District of Colorado
Full case nameDavid Mueller v. Taylor Swift
Decided14 August 2017
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingWilliam Martinez

The Taylor Swift sexual assault trial was a legal case held in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. The trial involved David Mueller, a former DJ, filing for defamation against singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. He claimed she had him wrongfully terminated following an incident at a 2013 meet-and-greet.[1] Swift then counter-sued Mueller for battery and sexual assault, seeking $1 in damages. The trial lasted one week, beginning on August 7, 2017, with both Mueller and Swift appearing in court. It concluded on the evening of August 14, 2017, with the jury ruling in Swift's favour and ordering Mueller to pay her $1.[2]

The trial was subject to significant media attention, due to Swift's status as a high profile celebrity. News and media outlets reported on the details of the case and the public's reaction daily.[3] In a statement released by Swift following the trial, she revealed her reasoning for counter-suing was to empower others if they have been the victims of assault, with the case occurring mere months before the Me Too movement. [4] In the statement, she also pledged to donate to organisations that help fund legal costs of sexual assault victims who choose to defend themselves.

Background[edit]

Incident[edit]

Pepsi Stadium, the location of the concert and meet-and-greet.

On June 2, 2013, while on her third concert tour, Swift attended a pre-show meet-and-greet organised by KYGO radio before one of her concerts at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.[1] Numerous fans and station employees were present at the event, where guests were invited to meet with Swift before taking photos with her. At the event, Swift posed for a photo with Mueller, a radio employee at the time, and his then-girlfriend Shannon Melcher, also an employee of the station.[1] Swift alleges that during the photograph, Mueller reached under her skirt and grabbed her buttock.[5] Immediately following the incident, once Mueller and Melcher had exited the room, Swift reported it to her mother, tour manager, the photographer and members of her security team.[citation needed]

Following the report, Swift's security team met with Mueller backstage and accused him of touching her inappropriately, which resulted in him being escorted from the concert.[1] The incident was also reported to KYGO radio and Mueller was terminated shorty after they conducted their own investigation into the event.[2]

Lawsuit[edit]

In September 2015, Mueller sued Swift for defamation, claiming that he had never touched Swift under her skirt. He alleged that as a result of the false claims he had wrongfully lost his job, his public image had been tarnished and he had been unjustifiably banned from any of Swift's future concerts. [5] His lawsuit stated:

"The contention that Mr. Mueller lifted up Ms. Swift's skirt and grabbed her bottom, while standing with his girlfriend, in front of Ms. Swift's photographer and Ms. Swift's highly trained security personnel, during a company sponsored, VIP, backstage meet-and-greet, is nonsense, particularly given that Ms. Swift's skirt is in place and is not being lifted by Mr. Mueller's hand in the photograph".[6]

Mueller sought approximately $3 million in lost income, stating he was earning approximately $150,000 per year at KYGO and radio careers "can span for over 20 years".[7] In his lawsuit, he acknowledged that Swift had been assaulted but instead blamed KYGO employee Eddie Haskell, claiming it was a case of mistaken identity on behalf of Swift and her team. His suit also named Frank Bell, the promotions director of KYGO radio, and Swift's mother Andrea.[8]

The following month Swift filed a counter suit for battery and assault. In the suit she expressed that she was completely aware of who had assaulted her, naming Mueller as the individual who deliberately groped her buttock, inappropriately, and without her permission. The suit also stated that before starting at KYGO, Mueller had not worked on the radio since May 2006 and prior to this he had been dismissed twice from radio positions.[9] In her suit Swift demanded a jury trial and expressed that any money she won from the trial would be donated to charity organisations who protect women from sexual assault and other violent acts.

On July 26, 2016 Swift gave her deposition. She was granted her request that the meet-and-greet photo of her and Mueller from 2013 be not made publicly available, with the judge sealing the documents. The image in question was later leaked in November 2016 by tabloid website TMZ.[10] In her deposition Swift detailed her recount of the event claiming Mueller intentionally lifted his hand up her dress and groped her buttock. Swift described knowing it was no accident when she attempted to hustle away and his hand was still there, stating she had "never been so sure of anything" in her life.[11]

On May 31, 2017 Judge William Martinez ruled that a jury would decide the outcome of the trial.

Nearly two months later, on July 19, 2017, Mueller was sanctioned by Judge Martinez for destroying key evidence. In his deposition he revealed he only provided edited down audio files of his two hour meeting with Call, which he had recorded on his phone. He claimed the full files had been damaged when he spilled coffee over his laptop keyboard and lost or thrown out other electronic devices.[12]

Trial[edit]

The trial began on Monday, August 7, 2017, with both Mueller, Swift and their respective legal teams present. On this day potential jurors were questioned regarding their objectivity towards the case. Candidates were asked about whether they were fans of either Swift or Mueller's music. Queries regarding Swift asked candidates whether they listened to her music, had attended her concerts, watched her videos and purchased an album of hers. Questions also examined whether or not jurors had ever been groped inappropriately or had ever been accused of touching someone else without their permission. [13] Out of 60 a total of eight jurors were chosen, six women and two men.[14]

The following day, both Swift and Mueller's lawyers gave their opening statements. Douglas Baldridge, Swift's attorney, led by stating Swift was "taking a stand for all women" and described the incident as assault in the workplace. Babe McFarland, Mueller's attorney followed by claiming Mueller had not touched Swift inappropriately and that the incident had cost Mueller "[his] dream job". Following the opening statements Mueller gave his testimony, stating his hand came into contact with a part of her body that seemed to be her ribs.

On August 9, 2017, Swift's mother, Andrea, took to the stand to detail her recollection of the incident. She described how she was sickened after being told of what had happened and when she saw the photo she could immediately tell her daughter was uncomfortable.[14]

The following day Swift herself took to the stand, her mother was unable to be present in court during her testimony. [15] She testified for almost an hour describing how it was a "definite" and "very long" grab and spoke of her monotone response to Mueller and his girlfriend following the photo. During her testimony, Swift was questioned about her feelings towards discovering Mueller had lost his job, to which she said it did not impact her.

In the following days, numerous witnesses testified. On Thursday, August 11, Stephanie Simbeck, Swift's photographer, took to the stand to recount what she had seen when taking the photo. The next day, Greg Dent, Swift's former body guard also testified.[14] This was followed by Mueller's ex-girlfriend Shannon who said she had not been watching the placement of Mueller's hands and described the photo as fast-paced. Ryan Kliesch, Mueller's KYGO 98.5 co-host, testified that he initially thought the allegations were a joke because he had not known of Mueller to be disrespectful towards women.

On Friday, August 12, Judge Martinez dismissed Mueller's $3 million case against Swift citing insufficient evidence that Swift had gotten him fired.[14]

The trial concluded on August 14, 2017. Both legal teams gave their closing statements before the jury deliberated for hours. Ultimately the jury ruled that Mueller had assaulted Swift at the 2013 meet-and-greet, awarding her $1. The jury also decided that Andrea Swift and Frank Bell had no impact on Mueller's termination.[14]

Public response[edit]

In the two year lead up to the trial numerous news agencies wrote articles about the incident, feueling public interest. Following the news of the legal case many members of the public took to social media to poke fun at the incident.

During the trial, employees of Craftsy, a Denver based crafting and design website located directly opposite the courtrooms, began to place post-it notes in the windows of their offices. The notes spelled out lyrics and song names from Swift's discography including "Fearless" (stylized in all lowercase), "I Knew You Were Trouble" (stylized in sentence case) and "Haterz Gonna Hate" (also stylized in sentence case) as signs of encouragement and support for the singer during her court appearances.[16]

During Swift's Tampa Bay show of her Reputation Stadium Tour on August 14, 2018, the one year anniversary of the trial, fans in the audience held up $1 bills in her honour as a symbol of support for the her. [17][18] Swift gave a speech about the victims of sexual assault before continuing with the tour set list, playing a mash up of New Year's Day and Long Live.[18]

In Swift's speech she stated "A year ago I was not playing in a sold out stadium in Tampa, I was in a courtroom in Denver, Colorado. This is the day the jury sided in my favor and said that they believed me". She continued to speak about belief of victims, apologizing to anyone who had not been believed or were too frightened to speak up for fear of not being believed. She closed her speech by thanking those who had supported her in what was a "really horrible part of [her] life" and contemplating where her life would have been had people not believed her.[18]

Aftermath[edit]

Media outlets believed Swift referenced the trial in her music video for "Look What You Made Me Do"; the scene shows a lone dollar bill to the left of Swift in a bathtub filled with diamonds.[19][20]

In December 2017, Swift was named as a "Silence Breaker" in Time magazine's Person of the Year issue.[15] In the magazine, Swift gave her first recount of the assault and trial, detailing how it felt to testify and advice she would offer to fans. She also revealed that as of that date she had still not been paid the symbolic dollar she had won.[15]

Swift also recalled that it was the most amount of times the term "ass" had been spoken in Colorado Federal Court.[15]

It has also been widely speculated that Swift made a reference to her assault trial in her "Look What You Made Me Do" music video, but this was never confirmed by Swift herself.[21]

In Elle USA's April 2019 issue Swift once again spoke of her trial. In the piece, titled "30 things I learned before I turned 30" Swift listed her opinion that she believes victims in cases of sexual assault as her thirteenth lesson. She credited this lesson to her own trial experience, drawing on what she described as the stigma many women feel when speaking up about assault.[22]

Following the outcome of the trial, Mueller struggled for months to find a job in radio. In early 2018 he was eventually hired by KIX-92.7 hosting a morning show in Mississippi, presenting under the pseudonym Stonewall Jackson.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Finkelstein, Sabrina (7 August 2017). "A Timeline of Events Leading Up to Taylor Swift Groping Trial". Billboard. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Taylor Swift wins assault case against DJ". BBC. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Taylor Swift sexual assault case: Why is it significant?". BBC News. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  4. ^ Miller, Julie (14 August 2017). "Taylor Swift Wins Sexual-Assault Trial, Vows to Help Other Victims". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b Grady, Constance (15 August 2017). "Taylor Swift won her day in court. Here's what you need to know". Vox. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  6. ^ Cuevas, Mayra. "Colorado DJ sues Taylor Swift over accusation". CNN.
  7. ^ "Taylor Swift Groping Trial: DJ Stands By Decision to Sue Pop Singer". 16 August 2017. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  8. ^ McGhee, Tom (8 August 2017). "Ex-radio host claims coffee spilled on MacBook destroyed audio recordings about meet-and-greet with Taylor Swift". Denver Post. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  9. ^ Ward, Mary (29 October 2015). "Taylor Swift files counterclaim against radio DJ who allegedly groped her". Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  10. ^ "TAYLOR SWIFT THE 'SEXUAL ASSAULT' PHOTO I Wanted to Keep Secret". TMZ. 12 November 2016. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  11. ^ Butler, Bethonie (10 August 2017). "Taylor Swift testifies in groping trial: 'It was a definite grab. A very long grab.'". Washington Post. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  12. ^ McGee, Tom (9 August 2017). "Ex-radio host claims spilled coffee destroyed audio recordings about meet-and-greet with Taylor Swift". The Mercury News. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Taylor Swift in court as potential jurors quizzed ahead of singer's sexual assault trial against DJ". ABC News. 8 August 2017. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d e Tracy, Brianne (14 August 2017). "Taylor Swift Groping Trial: A Timeline of Everything That's Happened in Court". People. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  15. ^ a b c d Dockterman, Eliana. "'I Was Angry.' Taylor Swift on What Powered Her Sexual Assault Testimony". TIME. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  16. ^ Bruner, Raisa (16 August 2017). "Taylor Swift Just Showered Her Supporters With Floral Bouquets". Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  17. ^ Schnurr, Samantha (15 August 2018). "Taylor Swift Emotionally Addresses Anniversary of Sexual Assault Lawsuit Victory as Fans Hold Up $1 Bills". E! News. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  18. ^ a b c Merrett, Robyn; Ale, Russian (15 August 2018). "Taylor Swift Fights Back Tears at Her Concert on the Anniversary of Sexual Assault Trial Verdict". People. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  19. ^ Moran, Rob (August 30, 2017). "The diamond bath in Taylor Swift's new music video cost $12 million". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  20. ^ Nevins, Jake (August 28, 2017). "Look what you made her do: decoding the disses of Taylor Swift's new video". The Guardian. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  21. ^ Larocca, Courteney. "The Dollar In The "Look What You Made Me Do" Video Is Probably The Most Significant Detail Of The Whole Ordeal". Bustle. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  22. ^ Swift, Taylor (6 March 2019). "30 THINGS I LEARNED BEFORE TURNING 30". Elle. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  23. ^ Jones, Marcus (30 January 2018). "The DJ Who Groped Taylor Swift Has Landed A New Job". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 11 June 2019.