Taylor Swift has been out of the spotlight for most of the year, but the pop superstar will be back in the news this week. Starting Monday, jury selection for a civil trial begins in Denver — about two years ago, country radio DJ David Mueller sued Swift, claiming that she got him fired when she falsely alleged that he groped her at a meet-and-greet. A month later, Swift countersued him for assault and battery.
Here’s what you need to know as the court case takes over the headlines.
Where it started:
On June 2, 2013, Swift performed a sold-out concert at the Pepsi Center in Denver on her Red Tour. Before the show, she hosted a meet-and-greet backstage, as she does for every performance. Mueller, a morning radio host for Denver’s country station KYGO, approached to take a photo with Swift and his then-girlfriend, Shannon Melcher. When the trio posed for the picture, Swift alleges, Mueller lifted her dress and groped her.
“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 in a deposition. “It was completely intentional, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.”
According to reports, Swift reported the incident to her photographer, tour manager and a member of her security team, who talked to Mueller. He said, “Please call the police. I didn’t do anything.” Mueller maintains they had a “pleasant” goodbye with Swift, though he was then escorted out by security.
Swift’s radio promotion director, Frank Bell, called KYGO and told Mueller’s boss what happened. Two days later, Mueller was fired; the station cited “a morality clause in his contract that allows his employer to fire him for conduct that could reflect unfavorably on the station or its sponsors,” according to the AP. At the time, Mueller’s salary was about $150,000 a year, and he’d been working in radio for two decades.
Two years later, in September 2015, Mueller sued Swift for slander and said that she got him fired when he didn’t do anything wrong. He alleged that his radio station boss was actually the one who touched Swift. Mueller is reportedly seeking $3 million in damages.
“The contention that Mr. Mueller lifted up Ms. Swift’s skirt and grabbed her bottom, while standing with his girlfriend, in front of Ms. Swift’s photographer and (her) highly trained security personnel … is nonsense,” reads his lawsuit.
A judge threw out the slander claim but allowed Mueller to move ahead with his allegation of “tortious interference,” meaning that he believes Swift and her team intentionally tried to get him fired by accusing him of behavior that violated his employment contract.
A month later, Swift countersued, accusing Mueller of assault and battery. The suit stated that “Ms. Swift knows exactly who committed the assault” and added that the lawsuit “will demonstrate that Mueller alone was the perpetrator of the humiliating and wrongful conduct targeted against Ms. Swift, and will serve as an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts.”
The point of Swift’s lawsuit is not financial (she’s asking for $1 in damages), but if the pop star is awarded money, the suit said, funds will go to charities “dedicated to protecting women from similar acts of sexual assault and personal disregard.”
“I remember being frantic, distressed, feeling violated in a way I had never experienced before,” Swift said in her deposition.
The pretrial controversy:
The case has made plenty of headlines even before trial, starting with the photograph of Mueller and Swift that the pop star’s legal team wanted sealed — but someone leaked the photo to TMZ. The Denver Post reports that the judge sanctioned Mueller when he “destroyed” a recording of the conversation between him and his radio station boss that took place when he got fired.
The eight-person jury trial will take place in downtown Denver at the federal courthouse; the Denver Post confirms that the city is bracing for a mob scene. According to the Post, the trial is scheduled to wrap up on Aug. 17, though that could change. Swift’s mother, Andrea Swift, is expected to be a witness, along with members of Swift’s team and Melcher, Mueller’s former girlfriend.
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