DENVER (CN) — Attorneys for Taylor Swift and the former Denver disc jockey she accuses of groping her opened the trial Tuesday by telling the eight-member civil jury very different stories about the night in question.
“Let’s be clear about something from the onset: Inappropriate touching is offensive, it’s wrong, and it should never be tolerated,” Gabriel McFarland, representing David Mueller, told the jury Tuesday morning.
Mueller sued Swift for tortious interference after he lost his job. She countersued for assault and battery.
“Let’s also be clear that falsely accusing someone of inappropriate touching is equally offensive,” McFarland said. “It’s equally wrong and it too should not be tolerated.
“This case is not about whether inappropriately touching someone or falsely accusing someone of inappropriate touching is wrong. We know that’s wrong. … Both of those things are wrong.
“This case is about whether Mr. Mueller took his hand, put it underneath Ms. Swift’s skirt at a June 2, 2013 meet and greet and grabbed her rear. … The second question, if you determine based on the evidence that he did not inappropriately touch Ms. Swift … was he fired as a result of the accusations, and what Ms. Swift’s team relayed to his employer, KYGO? That’s what this case is about in a nutshell.”
Mueller sued Swift in May 2015 for lost wages after he was as a morning host on Denver’s KYGO radio station. Mueller claimed KYGO was asked to “handle” him when Swift’s team complained that he had grabbed Swift’s butt under her skirt at a photo shoot before her concert at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Swift countersued Mueller in October 2015.
McFarland spent most of the day introducing Mueller to the jury, which was seated at 9:30 a.m.
“Mr. Mueller got into radio in 1994,” McFarland said. “After working in other fields, after doing some college work, he got a job in radio for five bucks an hour, and he fell in love with it. He’s worked in radio ever since 1994, at least up until the time Ms. Swift made her allegations.”
McFarland said Mueller never would want to jeopardize his “dream job” at KYGO by inappropriately touching a major pop star.
“Mr. Mueller, he was 51 years old at the time of the meet and greet,” McFarland said. “He had a beautiful girlfriend who he felt really strongly about, who he had told that he loved. He had a wonderful job, he had his dream job. Ms. Swift’s contention is that he came in with Ms. Melcher [Mueller’s girlfriend], introduced himself as a KYGO morning show host, and 30 seconds later had his hand up her skirt.
“I don’t know what kind of person does something like that, but it’s not the person who has his dream job.”
McFarland also drew the jury’s attention to Swift’s apparent lack of response to the alleged fondling, and pointed out a number of people who had been in the room when the photo was taken, including Swift’s bodyguard, tour manager and assistant.
“It’s a ten-by-ten room, and all those people are affiliated with the defendants,” McFarland said. “They all worked for Taylor Swift. … Most importantly, Greg Dent was set up behind the group; he was Ms. Swift’s personal professional bodyguard. His job was to make sure nothing happened to Ms. Swift. He was focused on the back of these folks. He didn’t see that, and he didn’t do anything.”
Swift’s attorney, however, J. Douglas Baldridge, told the jury that that most of Swift’s people claimed to have noticed that something “uncomfortable” had happened while Mueller was in the room.
Baldridge, with Venable Law in Washington, D.C., said Swift’s photographer noticed Swift reacting to something while the photo with Mueller was taken. Baldridge said there were several children in line behind Mueller and his girlfriend, and that Swift decided she did not want to make a scene until the children were gone.
“‘Mr. Dent is a bodyguard; he should have done something’ — it’s not that simple,” Baldridge said.
“Every move this young woman makes, the media picks up. There were little girls right behind Mr. Mueller and an immediate reaction does nothing but put her on the cover of a magazine to relive a moment she didn’t want to relive.
“Mr. Dent will tell you there are rules of the game in security. He takes his cues from Ms. Swift on signal, and only on signal is he to act. She took the risk to wait until the young people were out of the room.”
Baldridge concluded his opening argument by asking the jury to consider what Swift would gain from fabricating her allegations against Mueller.
“What possible motivation could Taylor Swift have to go through this expenditure? Defending and reliving an assault by this man? It’s ridiculous.”
Baldridge laid out Mueller’s possible frustrations that night: He had not been invited to a VIP room at the concert by his boss at KYGO, Eddie Haskell, but had been told to wait in line to meet Swift in a different section.
“His motivation is clear,” Baldridge said. “His bosses were in the VIP group; he was in what he called the ‘little girl line.’ He was humiliated by the time he met Ms. Swift. Eddie Haskell had told him that three days before this June 2 event happened that he was about to get fired for cause because he was doing all kinds of things.
“And then finally: money. He wants you to give him 15 times the amount he had left on his contract. Ms. Swift has counterclaimed; she has countersued him only after being sued. She didn’t want this to go public.
“She wants one dollar. She’s not trying to bankrupt this man. She’s trying to tell people out there that you can say ‘No.’ Any woman: rich, poor, famous or not.”
Mueller took the stand before noon, and denied Baldridge’s claim that he was asking for 15 times the amount left in his employment contract.
“Mr. Baldridge in his opening is indicating that you are asking for 15 times your salary. Is that true?” McFarland asked.
“No, it’s not,” Mueller responded.
“What are you asking for?”
“I am trying to clear my name and am asking for lost earnings, whatever the jury sees fit,” Mueller said.
Mueller’s first exhibit was a copy of his employment contract with KYGO.
“They were very generous with us,” Mueller said. “They gave us … a guaranteed $10,000 a year of endorsements, so that would be commercial endorsements, where we voice ads for clients, and you get extra money for that.”
McFarland asked Mueller to take the jury through the day of the concert, June 2. Mueller detailed his evening, in which he attended the meet and greet with his girlfriend. He said that in accord with KYGO’s instructions, they entered a small room where Swift and several assistants were standing in front of a draped backdrop.
“I stayed where the tent opening was. … Shannon was facing me and Taylor was facing away from me, several feet away from me,” Mueller said.
“Shannon was obviously enjoying herself. At some point Taylor … didn’t interrupt her, but I got the impression that she had to move things along, and she said, ‘How about a picture?’
“I saw a photographer for the first time, standing with an iPhone or an iPad. I immediately started moving to get into the photo.”
“What happened next?” McFarland asked.
“I turned toward the photographer, and I had my right arm extended, with my hand closed and my palm facing down,” Mueller said, gesticulating.
“Did any part of your body come into contact with Ms. Swift?” McFarland asked.
“My hand came into contact with part of her body.”
“I felt what appeared or seemed to be a ribcage,” Mueller said.
Mueller moved on to the conversation he had with Eddie Haskell in the parking lot right after the incident.
“The first thing [Haskell] said to me was, ‘Did you meet Taylor?’” Mueller said. “He proceeded to tell me about his encounter with Taylor earlier that night. … He said Taylor recognized [him], yelled out ‘Eddie!’ moved at him with excitement, basically jumped into his arms, and he gave her a large hug. He motioned like he had his arms around her, and he told me that he had his hand on her butt.”
Mueller said that he dismissed that as one of Haskell’s “goofy stories,” and went back into the Pepsi Center. But he and Melcher were quickly confronted by a security officer, and eventually corralled into a dark hallway where Mueller was interrogated. He was told he was banned from Swift’s concerts for life, and was asked to leave.
When Baldridge began his cross-examination, the tone in the courtroom became palpably strained.
“Do you consider a sexual assault to just be something that you would describe as silly?” Baldridge asked.
“I would not consider a story about sexual assault to be silly,” Mueller said.
“I would not consider a story about sexual assault to be goofy.”
Baldridge asked why he did not tell KYGO about Haskell’s admission that he had groped Swift.
“I didn’t feel like I had an obligation to tell my employer,” Mueller said.
Baldridge asked whether Mueller recalled Melcher’s similar issue with a KYGO employer, who, Baldridge said, had an incident with another employee touching her inappropriately.
“I did not advise Ms. Melcher to tell anyone anything,” Mueller said.
“You’re aware of the incident with Ms. Melcher?” Baldridge asked.
“I — can you please stop interrupting me?” Mueller asked.
“Are you aware, yes or no, of Ms. Melcher making allegations that a KYGO employee touched her inappropriately?”
“I advised her to go to HR,” Mueller said.
“You would agree that if any employee of KYGO touched Ms. Swift, KYGO had a right to know?” Baldridge asked.
“Yes,” Mueller said.
U.S. District Judge William Martinez adjourned at 5:15 p.m. after Mueller acknowledged that he had felt “invisible” during the meet-and-greet with Swift. The trial was to continue Wednesday.