Pop star Taylor Swift won an important ruling on Friday in connection with the lawsuit initiated by David Mueller. The Colorado radio DJ filed a $3 million suit against Swift in 2015, alleging that the singer defamed him and got him fired after wrongfully accusing him of groping her during a pre-concert fan reception in 2013. Swift countersued for a symbolic $1 in damages, accusing Mueller of assault and battery.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge William Martinez ruled in Swift's favor, dismissing Mueller's claim, while leaving Swift's assault and battery counterclaims against Mueller intact. Prior to trial, Judge Martinez dismissed Mueller's defamation claim, holding that had waited too long to file suit in accordance with the statute of limitations (a law which forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a specified number of years ago).
According to Reuters, Friday's decision came after four full days of trial and testimony from Swift accusing Mueller of clutching her butt; Mueller asserted under oath that he did no such thing. Earlier on Friday, Swift's former bodyguard corroborated her account, testifying that he saw the radio personality slip his hand under the singer's skirt as they posed together for a photo with Mueller's then-girlfriend.
Swift confirmed that her representatives lodged a complaint with KYGO management - Mueller's former employer - about the groping incident but insisted she never demanded that Mueller be fired. Moreover, Swift opted not initiate legal action against Mueller, as according to her mother, Andrea, who testified during the trial, the Swift family had not gone to the police after the alleged assault because they did not want to "cause a public uproar."
Swift, according to the media, was "by all accounts the undisputed star witness of her own trial, giving an unflinching account of the incident in question 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 ass," she told Mueller's lawyer, Gabriel McFarland. "He stayed latched onto my bare ass cheek. I felt him grab onto my ass cheek under my skirt."
Greg Dent, Swift's bodyguard and a former police officer who said he has provided security for many other celebrities, bolstered her narrative when he took the stand on Friday. "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 Swift's other side.
The photo, which was repeatedly shown to the jury during the days of the trial, shows Swift standing in between 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.
Mueller’s attorney Gabe McFarland asked Swift why the photo shows the front of her skirt in place, not lifted up, if Mueller was reaching underneath to grab her butt. “Because my ass is located in the back of my body,” Swift replied. She offered a similar response when asked whether she saw the grope taking place. When McFarland pointed out that the photo shows Swift closer to Mueller’s girlfriend than Mueller himself, Swift answered, “Yes, she did not have her hand on my ass.”
As noted by Slate, Swift's testimony was meaningful on many fronts. "Full of rightful exasperation, her testimony on Thursday was a galvanizing example of a so-called victim testimony in which the victim refused to be victimized. Swift was confident in her version of the story, unintimidated by a cross examination that implied she was a liar and unmistakably incensed when McFarland tried to cast doubt on her behavior during the evening in question."
When McFarland asked Swift on the stand how she felt knowing that Mueller was fired from his job as a result of the incident, Swift said she had no response. “I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is any way my fault, because it isn’t,” she said. Later, she stated: “I am being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions and not mine.”
Slate's Christina Cauterucci continued on to note, "Wasn’t Swift critical of her bodyguard, who didn’t prevent such an obvious assault? 'I’m critical of your client sticking his hand under my skirt and grabbing my ass,' she told the attorney. But, McFarland said, Swift could have taken a break in the middle of her meet-and-greet if she was so distraught. 'And your client could have taken a normal photo with me,' Swift countered, explaining that a pop star has a responsibility to her fans."
The most striking excerpt from Cauterucci's account of the trial: "Women who allege sexual assault are scolded all the time for ruining men’s lives, even if those men are proven guilty. Swift’s sharp testimony is a very visible condemnation of that common turn in cases like these. That’s an important message for women who may find themselves in Swift’s position someday, and maybe even more so for the men who’ll be called on to support or rebuff them."
Still up for debate before the eight-member jury: Whether Mueller is liable for assault and battery, for which Swift is seeking a symbolic $1 in damages. In explaining why Swift asked only for $1, her attorney, J. Douglas Baldridge, told the court, “She’s just trying to tell people out there that you can say no when someone puts their hand on you. Grabbing a woman’s rear end is an assault, and it’s always wrong. Any woman — rich, poor, famous, or not — is entitled to have that not happen.”
The jury is due to return on Monday for closing arguments in the case.