The former radio host who was fired for allegedly inappropriately touching pop star Taylor Swift is only suing her for money and fame, Swift’s attorney said Tuesday in opening statements of their civil trial.
But an attorney for the ex-radio host countered by arguing that Swift had recklessly ruined his radio career by falsely accusing him of inappropriate touching.
The civil lawsuit centers on Swift’s allegation that former KYGO morning show host David Mueller, known professionally as “Jackson,” inappropriately touched her during a June 2013 meet-and-greet at Denver’s Pepsi Center arena. KYGO is a CNN affiliate.
Mueller was fired days after the incident. In 2015 Mueller sued Swift, her mother Andrea Swift and her radio promotions director Frank Bell, claiming that the touching allegations are false. His suit argues that they pressured KYGO to fire him and that he lost his job because of the false accusations. Mueller is seeking $3 million in damages.
Swift, who was 23 at the time of the incident, countersued Mueller, accusing him of “reaching under her dress and grabbing her bottom” as they posed for a photo. Her suit argues that KYGO terminated Mueller after its own independent investigation.
The case is another variation on the “he said-she said” nature of high-profile sexual assault allegations. Attorneys for Swift, one of the most powerful celebrities in the world, argued in opening statements that Mueller was using her notoriety and fame for his own gain.
“He wants you to give him a payday,” Doug Baldridge, Swift’s attorney, told the eight-person jury. “His motivation is money, calling attention to himself, and getting revenge on his boss.”
A ‘reckless’ accusation?
The photo of that meet-and-greet, which was leaked last year and shown in court on Tuesday, will be a central piece of evidence in the trial. The photo shows Mueller with his hand hidden from view near Swift’s lower back.
Gabriel McFarland, Mueller’s attorney, said the photo was “awkward” but did not show any inappropriate, under-skirt touching as Swift has alleged.
“If you look at that photo, his hand is not underneath her skirt. It’s not ruffled, rumbled, affected in any form or fashion,” he said.
The accusation of misconduct “was careless, it was reckless and it was part of in many ways what has destroyed Mr. Mueller’s life,” said McFarland.
McFarland also suggested that Mueller may have been a victim of mistaken identity and that Swift might be confusing him with another man who was there.
But Baldridge, Swift’s attorney, said the pop star was sure it was Mueller who touched her. Baldridge also argued that Mueller had repeatedly changed his story and had destroyed evidence in the case leading up to trial.
He said Swift had been part of thousands of meet-and-greets, but had never had an incident like what happened with Mueller.
Swift, her mother and Bell are expected to testify. In court Tuesday, Swift wore a black-and-white checked dress with a collar and black tights and carried a beige handbag. She wore bright red lipstick and had her light brown hair pulled back in a bun with full bangs.
Taylor Swift’s counter-lawsuit argues that the case will “serve as an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts.” Her suit also claims that any money recovered from the case will be donated to charitable organizations dedicated to protecting women from acts of sexual assault.
After opening statements, Mueller took the stand Tuesday and described his short meeting with Swift in 2013. Mueller and his girlfriend at the time, Shannon Melcher, complimented Swift and then posed for a photo, he testified.
Mueller’s and Swift’s hands and arms touched as they got into position for a photo, he said. His right hand, in a closed fist with the palm down, came into contact with part of her body and he “felt what seemed to be a rib cage or ribs,” he said.
After the photo was taken, Taylor thanked them and she and Mueller shook hands, he testified. He said that his hand did not touch her butt and that he did not touch her inappropriately.
A short time later, Mueller was approached by a security guard who accused him of inappropriately grabbing Swift, which he denied. He was kicked out of the concert and told he was banned for life from Taylor Swift shows, he said.
The next day, his bosses told him he was suspended without pay amid an investigation. He was fired a day after that, he testified.
Swift fans line up for seats
Jury selection began on Monday and continued into Tuesday. The jury questionnaire asked potential jurors several questions about their personal opinions on Swift.
“Do you have any opinion of singer Taylor Swift?” jurors were asked. “Have you ever considered yourself a fan of Taylor Swift?”
Jurors were also asked about their experiences with inappropriate touching. Mueller’s attorney argued that Swift had made the case into “a crusade for women’s issues,” stretching it beyond the incident in question.
The jury is made up of two men and six women.
To accommodate Swift’s fans and other onlookers, the court designated 32 seats in the courtroom for the public. Outside the courthouse, a modest number of Swift fans lined up Tuesday for a seat in the courtroom and a glimpse at the star.
Jacquelyn Evans, a 32-year-old from Denver, said she was a huge Taylor Swift fan and admired the star for showing up at the trial.
“I think it’s pretty cool that she’s here to defend herself in person and not just kind of passing it off,” she said. “It shows that it’s a serious issue to her and it’s a really great experience for girls to see her come out and do that.”