Saturday Aug 12, 2017
DENVER: Pop star Taylor Swift on Friday won a preliminary round in a federal court trial stemming from her allegation that she was groped by a Colorado disc jockey, as the judge dismissed the DJ's rival claim accusing the singer of wrongfully getting him fired.
The ruling by US District Judge William Martinez left intact Swift's assault and battery countersuit against David Mueller, who had asserted he was falsely accused by the recording star and ousted from his $150,000-a-year job at radio station KYGO-FM under pressure from her.
Swift's former bodyguard on Friday corroborated her account of being groped by a Colorado disc jockey, testifying that he saw the radio personality slip his hand under her skirt as they posed for a photo.
Greg Dent – a former police officer who said he has provided security for many other celebrities – took the witness stand on the fifth day of a US District Court trial in Denver pitting the 27-year-old singer against 55-year-old Mueller – the man she has accused of sexual assault in 2013.
An eight-member jury has been weighing her allegation that Mueller clutched her bare backside during a pre-concert fan reception against Mueller's assertion that she falsely accused him, then got him fired from radio station KYGO-FM.
The Grammy-winning artist behind hits such as "Fearless" and "I Knew Your Were Trouble" testified on Thursday that she was subjected to a "very long," "intentional", and "horrifying" grope by Mueller as she posed with him and his then-girlfriend for a picture. Swift also said it was obvious the couple had both "had a few cocktails."
Dent, called to the stand by Gabriel McFarland – Mueller's lawyer – told jurors he witnessed the incident.
"I saw his hand under her skirt. … Her skirt went up. … She jumped," Dent testified, adding that Swift then moved closer to Mueller's girlfriend, who was standing on the other side of the singer for the photo.
"I was definitely sure that he had been drinking," Dent said of Mueller. "I don't know what level. He wasn't staggering or falling down."
Dent said he did not immediately intervene because he took his cues from Swift, who continued with the meet-and-greet session. When she finished meeting her fans, Dent said Swift told her staff about the groping.
Earlier this week, Mueller testified that he may have made innocent contact with Swift but denied any inappropriate behaviour, and explicitly denied grabbing her rear end.
Following Dent to the stand was Ryan Kliesch – Mueller's longtime friend and former co-host at KYGO-FM. He repeatedly answered "no" when asked by McFarland if he had ever seen Mueller disrespect, demean, condescend or act inappropriately toward women.
The last witness McFarland called was Shannon Melcher – Mueller's ex-girlfriend and a former sales representative for KYGO who, like Kliesch, gave testimony that was somewhat supportive of Mueller though far from effusively favourable.
Asked if she saw Mueller inappropriately touch Swift during the picture-taking session, Melcher said she did not, but added, "I don't have eyes in the back of my head."
"We took the photo quickly," she testified, recounting that Mueller was standing some distance away when it was their turn to pose and that he later remarked, "he had to dive into the photo." But Melcher testified she did not notice Swift lurch or move away from Mueller.
The photo – repeatedly displayed in court – shows Swift in a black skirt and top, flanked by Mueller and Melcher, all three smiling for the camera. Mueller has his right hand concealed behind Swift's backside, and she appears to have shifted her hip away from him.
Following Melcher's appearance, McFarland rested his case, and D. Douglas Baldridge – Swift's attorney – did likewise. He said his side had "met our burden" through the testimony of all the witnesses already called by her adversary, including Swift herself.
Jurors were dismissed for the weekend and were due to return on Monday to hear closing arguments.
Swift, known for baring her soul and her grudges in her music, gave an unflinching account of the incident in court on Thursday.
In unvarnished language that occasionally drew titters in the courtroom, even from some jurors, Swift testified that she was the victim of a "devious and sneaky act."
"Your client grabbed my [backside]," she told McFarland. "He stayed latched onto my bare [backside]. I felt him grab [me] under my skirt."
Mueller initiated the litigation, claiming Swift fabricated the story and pressured KYGO to fire him. Swift then countersued for assault and battery, asking for symbolic damages of $1.
The former disc jockey is seeking lost earnings and to clear his name, telling the court this week it was humiliating to be accused of "something so despicable".