Taylor Swift sexual assault trial

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Mueller v. Swift
CourtUnited States District Court for the District of Colorado
Full case nameDavid Mueller v. Taylor Swift
DecidedAugust 14, 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 alleged that 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 a symbolic $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 favor and ordering Mueller to pay her $1.[2]

The trial was subject to significant media attention by virtue of 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 other victims of sexual assault.[4] In the statement, she also pledged to donate to organizations that help fund legal costs of sexual assault victims who choose to defend themselves.



Pepsi Center, 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 organized 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 David Mueller, a radio employee at the time, and his then-girlfriend Shannon Melcher, also an employee of the station.[1] Swift alleged that during the photograph, Mueller reached under her skirt and grabbed her buttocks.[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.[6]

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 shortly after they conducted their own investigation into the event.[2]


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".[7]

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".[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] In her suit, Swift demanded a jury trial and expressed that she would donate any money she won from the trial to charity organizations that 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 tabloid website TMZ later published the image.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]


The trial began on 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.[14] Out of 60 a total of eight jurors were chosen, six women and two men.[15]

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.[15]

The following day Swift herself took to the stand; her mother was unable to be present in court during her testimony.[16] 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 by Mueller's attorney about her feelings regarding Mueller losing his job; she reminded the attorney that his client's job loss was his own fault:

"I didn’t have a reaction to a strange person I didn’t know losing his job... I’m not going to let you or your client make me feel in any way that this is my fault. Here we are years later, and I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are the product of his decisions—not mine."[17][18]

In the following days, numerous witnesses testified. On 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 bodyguard, also testified.[15] 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 August 12, Martinez dismissed Mueller's $3 million case against Swift, citing insufficient evidence that Swift had gotten him fired.[15]

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.[15]

Public response[edit]

In the two-year lead-up to the trial, numerous news agencies wrote articles about the incident, fueling public interest.[19][20]

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", "I Knew You Were Trouble" and "Shake It Off" as signs of encouragement and support for the singer during her court appearances.[21]

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 honor as a symbol of support for her.[22][23] 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".[23]

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 believing victims, apologizing to anyone who had not been believed or was 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.[23]


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.[24][25]

In December 2017, Swift was named as a "Silence Breaker" in Time magazine's Person of the Year issue.[16] 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.[16]

Swift also recalled that it was the most number of times the term "ass" had been spoken in Colorado Federal Court.[16]

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.[26]

In the April 2019 issue of Elle, 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 13th 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.[27]

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.[28]

The case was cited in the 2023 ski crash lawsuit against American actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who had countersued the plaintiff for $1. Paltrow won the suit.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Finkelstein, Sabrina (August 7, 2017). "A Timeline of Events Leading Up to Taylor Swift Groping Trial". Billboard. Archived from the original on March 18, 2023. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Taylor Swift wins assault case against DJ". BBC. August 15, 2017. Archived from the original on April 14, 2023. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  3. ^ "Taylor Swift sexual assault case: Why is it significant?". BBC News. August 15, 2017. Archived from the original on March 18, 2023. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  4. ^ Miller, Julie (August 14, 2017). "Taylor Swift Wins Sexual-Assault Trial, Vows to Help Other Victims". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Grady, Constance (August 15, 2017). "Taylor Swift won her day in court. Here's what you need to know". Vox. Archived from the original on October 17, 2022. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  6. ^ Yahr, Emily (August 7, 2017). "Why could Taylor Swift show up in court this week? Here's what to know about her trial". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 23, 2022. According to reports, Swift reported the incident to her photographer, tour manager and a member of her security team, who talked to Mueller.
  7. ^ Cuevas, Mayra. "Colorado DJ sues Taylor Swift over accusation". CNN. Archived from the original on May 12, 2019. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  8. ^ "Taylor Swift Groping Trial: DJ Stands By Decision to Sue Pop Singer". NBC News. August 16, 2017. Archived from the original on March 18, 2023. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  9. ^ McGhee, Tom (August 8, 2017). "Ex-radio host claims coffee spilled on MacBook destroyed audio recordings about meet-and-greet with Taylor Swift". Denver Post. Archived from the original on June 30, 2019. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  10. ^ Ward, Mary (October 29, 2015). "Taylor Swift files counterclaim against radio DJ who allegedly groped her". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on June 11, 2020. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  11. ^ Wiest, Brianna (November 14, 2016). "Taylor Swift Groping Case Photo Published by TMZ". Teen Vogue. Retrieved August 2, 2023.
  12. ^ Butler, Bethonie (August 10, 2017). "Taylor Swift testifies in groping trial: 'It was a definite grab. A very long grab.'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 18, 2019. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  13. ^ McGee, Tom (August 9, 2017). "Ex-radio host claims spilled coffee destroyed audio recordings about meet-and-greet with Taylor Swift". The Mercury News. Archived from the original on December 4, 2018. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  14. ^ "Taylor Swift in court as potential jurors quizzed ahead of singer's sexual assault trial against DJ". ABC News. August 8, 2017. Archived from the original on October 12, 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  15. ^ a b c d e Tracy, Brianne (August 14, 2017). "Taylor Swift Groping Trial: A Timeline of Everything That's Happened in Court". People. Archived from the original on January 30, 2019. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  16. ^ a b c d Dockterman, Eliana. "'I Was Angry.' Taylor Swift on What Powered Her Sexual Assault Testimony". TIME. Archived from the original on December 6, 2017. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  17. ^ Cush, Andy (August 10, 2017). "Taylor Swift Testifies In Alleged Groping Trial: 'What He Did Was Despicable'". Spin. Archived from the original on May 8, 2023. Retrieved May 8, 2023.
  18. ^ Aguirre, Abby (August 8, 2019). "Taylor Swift on Sexism, Scrutiny, and Standing Up for Herself". Vogue. Archived from the original on August 10, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2023.
  19. ^ "Taylor Swift's Upcoming Groping Trial: People Explains". People. Archived from the original on February 11, 2023. Retrieved February 11, 2023.
  20. ^ France, Lisa Respers (August 4, 2017). "Taylor Swift to testify DJ groped her". CNN. Archived from the original on February 11, 2023. Retrieved February 11, 2023.
  21. ^ Bruner, Raisa (August 16, 2017). "Taylor Swift Just Showered Her Supporters With Floral Bouquets". Time. Archived from the original on May 1, 2018. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  22. ^ Schnurr, Samantha (August 15, 2018). "Taylor Swift Emotionally Addresses Anniversary of Sexual Assault Lawsuit Victory as Fans Hold Up $1 Bills". E! News. Archived from the original on May 12, 2019. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  23. ^ a b c Merrett, Robyn; Ale, Russian (August 15, 2018). "Taylor Swift Fights Back Tears at Her Concert on the Anniversary of Sexual Assault Trial Verdict". People. Archived from the original on May 25, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  24. ^ Moran, Rob (August 30, 2017). "The diamond bath in Taylor Swift's new music video cost $12 million". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on June 24, 2021. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  25. ^ Nevins, Jake (August 28, 2017). "Look what you made her do: decoding the disses of Taylor Swift's new video". The Guardian. Archived from the original on June 24, 2021. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  26. ^ Larocca, Courteney. "The Dollar In The "Look What You Made Me Do" Video Is Probably The Most Significant Detail Of The Whole Ordeal". Bustle. Archived from the original on June 11, 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  27. ^ Swift, Taylor (March 6, 2019). "30 THINGS I LEARNED BEFORE TURNING 30". Elle. Archived from the original on May 9, 2019. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  28. ^ Jones, Marcus (January 30, 2018). "The DJ Who Groped Taylor Swift Has Landed A New Job". BuzzFeed. Archived from the original on May 15, 2019. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  29. ^ Travis, Emlyn Travis (March 25, 2023). "How Taylor Swift got dragged into the Gwyneth Paltrow ski crash trial". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 30, 2023.