DENVER — A former radio disc jockey accused of groping Taylor Swift before a concert testified Tuesday that he may have touched the pop superstar’s ribs with a closed hand as he tried to jump into a photo with her but insisted he did not touch her backside as she claims.
David Mueller told jurors at the civil trial on dueling lawsuits filed by Mueller and Swift that he and the singer-songwriter were trying to reach around one another and “our hands touched and our arms touched” during a photo opportunity he estimated lasted no more than 40 seconds.
Under questioning by his attorney, Mueller said he may have touched Swift’s “rib cage, or rib, or ribs.”
The 2013 photo of Swift, Mueller and Mueller’s girlfriend taken at the pre-concert event in Denver is a key piece of evidence in Mueller’s suit claiming he was fired after being falsely accused by Swift. He is seeking at least $3 million.
The photo shows Mueller with his hand behind Swift, just below her waist. Both are smiling.
Her lawyers have called the photo “damning” proof that Mueller groped her.
Mueller’s lawyer, Gabriel McFarland, showed jurors the photograph during his opening remarks. Two jurors stared at the photo on their computer monitors while a few others kept glancing at it as McFarland spoke.
“If you look at that photograph, his hand is not underneath Miss Swift’s skirt, and her skirt is not rumpled in any fashion,” McFarland said, noting that no one on Swift’s concert team saw anything amiss.
Mueller also testified that one of his station bosses, Hershel Coomer, told him that he had met Swift earlier before the show and that “he told me that he had his hands on her butt.”
Mueller said, “I thought he was just telling me one of his stories.”
Coomer is expected to testify at the civil trial.
Swift has said she is positive it was Mueller who groped her.
Swift has countersued Mueller, claiming sexual assault. She is seeking a symbolic $1, saying she wants to serve as an example to other women who have been assaulted.
In his opening statement, Douglas Baldridge, an attorney for Swift. told jurors that his superstar client is “absolutely certain” she was sexually assaulted and will prove it in court.
Baldridge also asked what possible reason Swift would have to make up an allegation.
“That’s the one and only story we have to tell you — that Mr. Mueller grabbed her rear end,” he said.
Mueller’s attorney told jurors that inappropriate touching is wrong, but falsely accusing someone of the offence is equally unacceptable.
Baldridge disputed that description of the incident and instead called it an “assault.”
He also emphasized the age difference between Mueller, then 51, and Swift, then 23.
Swift is also expected to testify in the case, along with members of her entourage.
The case is being heard by a jury of six women and two men, most appearing to be over 30.
Mueller, wearing a smoke grey jacket and a white shirt, sat in court with his back to Swift and her mother, Andrea Swift.
Taylor Swift had her hair in a bun and wore a conservative black dress with tights.
Andrea Swift teared up when Baldridge spoke about her close relationship with her daughter, noting that in the past Andrea Swift had driven a Ford Taurus between radio stations to ensure that “something like this would never happen” while her daughter met with fans and others.
About 25 members of the public, ranging from about 14 to 40 years old, watched the trial after lining up for access passes. Three high school students showed up before dawn to secure a spot.
“I love how she’s suing him for $1 because she doesn’t need the money but she wants to make it a point that women don’t need to take this,” said Vega Zaringlee, 12, who was in line with her father Ed Lee.