DENVER—Taylor Swift’s next appearance in Denver won’t be in front of 20,000 screaming fans in the Pepsi Center but rather eight jurors in a federal courtroom.
Swift is due to testify next week in a civil case she brought against a former local DJ who is accused of grabbing her butt during a meet-and-greet four years ago. Swift says she’s “never been so sure of anything in her life” that David Mueller intentionally put his hand under her skirt and touched her. Mueller claims he never meant to touch Swift inappropriately when they had their photo taken together at Denver’s Pepsi Center on June 2, 2013.
In fact, Mueller sued Swift first, for allegedly pressuring his bosses to fire him after he lost his $150,000-a-year job as the morning DJ at country radio station KYGO. Swift countersued for assault and battery, contending that Mueller, then 51 years old, groped her, leaving her “shocked and distressed.”
Swift said in a deposition that “right as the moment came for us to pose for the photo, he [Mueller] 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... it was not an accident.”
Some of the evidence in the case was destroyed by Mueller himself. He was sanctioned by Judge William Martinez just last month for destroying four devices including his computer and an iPhone, which held a recording he made with his boss the day after the incident. The next day, he was fired.
That might leave the trial as a case of “he said, she said,” but for one photo taken at almost the exact moment Swift claims Mueller groped her. The image, which has since been sealed by Judge Martinez, shows Swift flanked by Mueller and his then-girlfriend, Shannon Melcher. Swift appears to be leaning into Melcher and away from Mueller, whose arm is seen around Swift’s back. Attempts by The Daily Beast to reach Mueller and Melcher were ignored.
Muelller’s former boss, KYGO Vice President Bob Call testified that though Mueller’s hand is “in a pretty inappropriate place,” he couldn’t tell if it was under Swift’s skirt touching her, as she claims.
Swift said as soon as the meet-and-greet was over, she reported Mueller’s behavior to Frank Bell, her senior manager, her photographer, her mom, and to Greg Dent, her personal bodyguard.
“Before the photo was taken is when I saw him go to put his arm around her and him lift up her skirt,” Dent said in a deposition. “She reacted, pushed her skirt down, and jumped to the side and went closer to the girl that was with him.”
The photo, much to the judge’s frustration, was leaked to TMZ in November 2016.
Days later, Mueller referenced the picture during a radio interview swearing that his hand was not open.
“My right hand—I’m looking at the photographer and I’m trying to, you know, get my right hand behind Taylor,” Mueller said. “Because Shannon was on the other side of Taylor, OK? My other hand, I think, was on my belt or on my pocket—my left hand. So my right hand, I’ve got my hand down and my palm closed and I reach behind toward Taylor. Our hands touched and our arms crossed. That’s all I remember.”
Though the picture is a hot piece of evidence, attorneys say it’s not definitive. “It’s not a picture of his hand under her dress, but it is proof his hand was in proximity,” said Denver attorney Steven Zansberg.
The picture was sent to Mueller’s bosses at KYGO immediately after Swift’s concert that night.
An exhibit list obtained by The Daily Beast indicate that evidence introduced during the nine day trial will include what’s being called the “at issue photo,” Swift’s cellphone records, her senior manager Frank Bell’s handwritten notes, and emails sent between Mueller’s employers.
The judge has speculated that the case is worth $3 million dollars in damages to Mueller, which is nothing for Swift. She is suing for costs and attorneys’ fees associated with what documents describe as “a frivolous lawsuit.”
Administrators at Denver’s Alfred A. Arraj Federal Courthouse have been preparing for months for a barrage of Swifties, the nickname Swift fans have given themselves. Clerk of Court Jeff Colwell said people will not be allowed to wear her T-shirts, bring cellphones, banners, or signs in the hallway.
“This is a serious federal court trial. This isn’t a concert,” he said.
Swift will likely be whisked into the courthouse’s side entrance away from prying eyes and cellphone cameras. Denver federal courts are no stranger to high-profile cases, having been the site for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s trial and appeal back in the 1990s, and to the recent nationally covered trial of Harold Henthorn, a Denver area man convicted of pushing his ophthalmologist wife off of a cliff in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Still, the tiny courtroom reserved for the trial holds less than 50 people, so court administrators have arranged for spillover areas for the public and for a barrage of local and national media.
“We are prepared for upwards of 200 people. Fans can start lining up for their court passes at 6 a.m.,” Colwell said.
Swift, who has never had a problem getting her voice heard, is hoping the jury will listen.