Taylor Swift’s lawyers have told jurors they are not trying to bankrupt a former Colorado DJ accused of groping the pop star before a concert, but they want others to know “that you can always say no”.
The singer’s lawyer, Douglas Baldridge, attacked the credibility of former Denver DJ David Mueller on Tuesday, asking jurors: “What’s wrong with this picture? A woman gets assaulted, a woman reports it, and she gets sued.”
Mueller is suing Swift after her team told his bosses at country music station KYGO that he had reached under her dress and touched her bottom during a meet-and-greet before a 2013 concert in Denver. He is seeking at least 3 million dollars (£2.3 million), saying the allegation cost him his job and reputation.
Swift is countersuing Mueller, claiming sexual assault. She is seeking a symbolic one dollar (77p) damages, saying she wants to serve as an example to other women who have been assaulted.
As the pop star’s lawyers tried to take the higher ground in the he said, she said case, Mueller’s legal team tried to paint their client as someone who just wants to clear his name and recover his lost earnings.
“Let’s be clear about something from the onset – inappropriate touching is offensive, it’s wrong and should never be tolerated,” Mueller’s lawyer, Gabriel McFarland, told jurors. “Let’s also be clear that falsely accusing someone of inappropriate touching is equally offensive, it’s wrong and should not be tolerated.”
Mueller gave evidence on Tuesday, saying he may have touched Swift’s ribs with a closed hand as he tried to jump into a photo with her but insisted he did not touch her bottom, as she claims. He said he and the singer 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.
The photo seen by jurors shows Mueller with his hand behind Swift, just below her waist. Both are smiling.
“If you look at that photograph, his hand is not underneath Miss Swift’s skirt, and her skirt is not rumpled in any fashion,” Mr McFarland said, noting that no-one on the singer’s concert team saw anything amiss.
Mueller also testified that one of his station bosses, Hershel Coomer, who is expected to give evidence, 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.”
But in his opening statement, Mr Baldridge told jurors that Swift is “absolutely certain” she was sexually assaulted by Mueller, and the photo is “damning” proof of it.
Mr Baldridge repeatedly interrupted Mueller during an aggressive cross-examination and noted that Mueller has said he lost an audio recording of a meeting he had with his bosses before they fired him.
“We’ll never know what’s on it, will we?” the lawyer asked.
“No, we won’t,” Mueller responded. “They’re gone.”
Mr Baldridge also repeatedly asked Mueller if he could grasp “any reason, incentive or motive” for Swift to make up the allegation or be involved in two years of litigation.
“I cannot,” Mueller replied.
Mr Baldridge did get Mueller to concede that various supervisors with KYGO and its parent firm had discussed the possibility of letting him go even before the encounter with Swift.
Swift is expected to testify, along with members of her entourage.