(CN) – A federal judge has sanctioned a radio host in a lawsuit where he claims Taylor Swift ruined his reputation after she reported he groped her during a photo op, because the host recorded a conversation with his supervisors but said he lost the audio.
David Mueller claims it was Swift’s fault that he was fired from Denver radio station KYGO after she accused him of grabbing her backside.
He sued the pop star and her management on slander and other claims in 2015, denying the allegations that he lifted up her skirt and touched her bottom. Swift later countersued Mueller for assault and battery.
“Right as the moment came for us to pose for the photo, he took his hand and put it up my dress and grabbed onto my ass cheek, and no matter how much I scooted over, it was still there,” Swift said at her deposition.
“It was completely intentional; I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.”
Mueller, who says he passed two polygraph tests, claimed his program manager at the radio station was the one who groped Swift.
In June, U.S. District Judge William Martinez dismissed the slander claim.
“There would appear to be nothing improper about Swift – or any other person – making an honest report to an entity with which she does business that one of its employees assaulted or harassed her,” Martinez wrote in his 37-page order.
The day after Mueller’s supervisors Robert Call and Hershel Coomer (aka Eddie Haskell) got word of Swift’s accusations, they met with him and Mueller secretly recorded the conversation.
According to court documents, Mueller edited the audio of the conversation and sent clips to his attorney. He claimed he lost the original file after he spilled coffee on his laptop.
Swift and her management moved for sanctions for spoliation of evidence, which Judge Martinez granted this week.
Mueller either knew or should have known that litigation was imminent and he should have preserved the recording, Martinez found.
“Indeed, it is quite likely that the reason plaintiff secretively recorded his conversation with Call and Haskell was because he knew that some form of adversarial legal action was likely to follow,” the judge wrote.
“Moreover, plaintiff later edited the audio file in order to send ‘clips’ to his own attorney, when it was abundantly clear that litigation was imminent, because plaintiff himself was actively considering it.”
The audio would have cleared up conflicting stories about Mueller’s firing and Swift’s accusations, Martinez found.
Call testified that one reason Mueller was fired was because he “changed his story” about what happened.
The trial is set to begin on Aug. 7. The sanctions against Mueller will come in the form of the defendants being allowed to cross-examine Mueller in front of the jury regarding the record of spoliation of evidence.
Mueller’s attorney Gabriel McFarland did not respond to a request for comment.
Swift is represented by Courtney Ann Sullivan with Venable Commercial Litigation Group in Washington, who also did not respond to a request for comment.