Taylor Swift wins groping case and promises to support victims of assault

The Washington Post, Associated Press
The Washington Post, Associated Press |

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This courtroom sketch shows Taylor Swift, her mother Andrea and lawyer Jesse Schaudies reacting to the verdict.

A jury decided on Monday that a former DJ did grope Taylor Swift before her concert in 2013, awarding the pop star a symbolic US$1 after a week-long trial.

Two years ago, former KYGO radio host David Mueller sued Swift, claiming he was fired after the singer and her team accused him of lifting her dress and touching her buttocks during a meet-and-greet photo backstage at the Pepsi Arena. Mueller denied doing anything inappropriate and sought up to US$3 million in damages. Swift then countersued for assault and battery, and asked for US$1 in damages - demonstrating that her lawsuit was not about money, and as her attorney said during closing arguments on Monday, represents the fact that “no means no, and it tells every woman that they will determine what is tolerable to their body”.

After the verdict was announced, Swift thanked her lawyers “for fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault, and especially anyone who offered their support throughout this four-year ordeal and two-year-long trial process.”

“My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard,” Swift said in a prepared statement, promising to make unspecified donations to groups that help victims of sexual assault.

On Friday, Judge Martinez threw out Mueller’s claim against Swift, and ruled that the singer could not be held personally responsible for Mueller losing his job. He allowed claims against Swift’s mother, Andrea Swift, and radio representative, Frank Bell (who contacted Mueller’s radio station boss after the concert) to go forward - but the jury found that they were also not liable for Mueller’s termination.

The jury deliberated for four hours before coming to a conclusion.

This marks the end of a trial that drew international coverage, particularly with Swift’s very direct testimony last week. When Mueller’s attorney asked whether Swift was critical of her bodyguard for not interfering if Mueller had really reached under her skirt, Swift answered, “I’m critical of your client sticking his hand under my skirt and grabbing my ass.” After the attorney suggested Swift could have taken a break in the meet-and-greet if she was upset, she responded, “Your client could have taken a normal photo with me.”

Mueller maintains he did nothing wrong and said that he may have brushed Swift’s ribs when he jumped in the photo at the last minute; he also said it was his radio station boss who touched Swift. In his closing argument, Mueller’s lawyer, Gabe McFarland, urged jurors to consider Swift’s expression in the photo with Mueller: “Is that the face of someone who’s in shock, who is upset? There’s nothing to suggest in Ms Swift’s face that anything inappropriate is happening.”

Swift’s lawyer, Douglas Baldridge, countered that it was “crystal clear” that Swift didn’t misidentify Mueller, given that most of the pictures she took in the meet-and-greet line were with young female fans. He also told jurors to look at Mueller’s face in the picture: “That is a man who is very proud of what he was doing at that moment.”

“It makes no sense for Taylor Swift to make up this claim,” Baldridge said, who said earlier that Swift’s lawsuit “will serve as an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts”.

As court ended on Monday, Baldridge was seen speaking to the media, saying that the jury “did the right thing.”