The Taylor Swift groping trial on Tuesday (Aug. 8) quickly zoomed in on the former Denver country DJ who allegedly grabbed the superstar singer’s bottom during a meet-and-greet before her June 2013 show at the Pepsi Center.
David Mueller, 51 at the time, was a veteran morning-show host, producer and radio professional who’d worked for stations in San Diego, Kansas City and Columbus, Ohio, before joining KYGO’s morning-show team in 2012. Since Swift made her allegations, the white-haired plaintiff, wearing a dark suit and a black tie, his voice occasionally cracking, told the court, “I want to clear my name.”
But in a rapid-fire cross-examination, Swift’s attorney, Douglas Baldridge, painted a darker portrait of Mueller — of a man who felt disrespected when he had to wait in line with fans rather than the VIP line with his co-workers and employers. When a Swift employee ushered Mueller into a booth for a routine photo shoot, the singer bonded more intensely with his girlfriend, fellow KYGO employee Shannon Melcher. “When she didn’t invite me over to pose for the photograph with her, I considered her cold and stand-offish,” Mueller said, during more than four hours on the witness stand (with testimony continuing in the morning). “She didn’t acknowledge me.”
Swift, who sat silently in U.S. District Court wearing a blue-and-white plaid dress, a long, dark sweater and her blonde hair pulled into a tight bob, has accused Mueller of “improperly and inappropriately groping” her. KYGO, the country station that paid Mueller a $150,000-per-year contract to be part of a morning-show duo known as Ryno and Jackson, fired him two days later. Mueller sued for defamation in 2015, putting Swift, who claims she is the victim of assault, in an unusual position as defendant — but she’s also the counter-claimant, having sued Mueller for assault.
Attorneys for Mueller and Swift opened the trial Tuesday morning with starkly different versions of what happened at that June 2, 2013, concert at the Pepsi Center. Mueller claims he did not touch Swift’s posterior, instead was casually “jostling” with the star before the photo shoot and his arm may have grazed her “rib-cage area.” “Let’s be clear from the start — inappropriate touching is wrong and offensive. Let’s also be clear that falsely accusing someone … is equally wrong,” Mueller’s attorney, Gabriel McFarland, told the six women and two men on the jury.
Baldridge, though, said Mueller “grabbed my client’s rear end, plain and simple” and concluded, “it’s not ‘inapproriate touching.’ It was assault.”
Swift’s attorney spent more than an hour on Mueller’s contention that he secretly recorded a meeting with his KYGO superiors shortly before they fired him. Mueller has said he saved the recordings on a variety of laptops, phones and backup drives, all of which he irreparably damaged before they could become evidence. “You’ve lost or destroyed five electronic devices, didn’t you?” the attorney asked. “Yes, I did,” Mueller responded. The former radio personality sighed several times during Baldridge’s intense cross-examination and at one point snapped, “Can you please stop interrupting me?”
Before the trial opened at the Alfred A. Arraj Courthouse in downtown Denver, about 20 people lined up for a chance to sit in the courtroom, including a long-haired local heavy-metal guitarist wearing a Dokken T-shirt and a visiting 10-year-old Swift fan with her father. After watching testimony all day in the courtroom, Chris Cain, a 31-year-old software developer, described the he-said-she-said allegations as “really off.” He said, “In the way you would say of Taylor, ‘Why would you make that up?,’ you would say the same about him.”