A judge has thrown out a Denver radio host's case against Taylor Swift in their dueling lawsuits over whether he groped her during a backstage meet-and-greet and whether she and her team ruined his career. (Aug. 11) AP
Taylor Swift has won.
After just a few hours of deliberation, the jury in Swift's groping trial reached a unanimous verdict Monday: They believe Swift was groped — assaulted and battered, in the legal terminology — by ex-Denver radio DJ David Mueller in 2013.
Also, the jury decided that Swift's mother, Andrea Swift, and a manager, Frank Bell, were not responsible for Mueller's firing after the encounter, that they were within their rights to contact Mueller's bosses about what Swift said happened to her during a photo op at a pre-concert meet-and-greet.
The verdict by the six women and two men on the jury is a total vindication for Swift and her team, and a total loss for Mueller. The two have spent the last two years in a legal battle over their dueling civil lawsuits. The verdict comes at the end of a six-day trial in federal court in Denver.
After the verdict was read, Swift hugged her crying mother. Later, she issued a statement.
"I want to thank Judge William J. Martinez and the jury for their careful consideration, my attorneys Doug Baldridge, Danielle Foley, Jay Schaudies and Katie Wright for fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault, and especially anyone who offered their support throughout this four-year ordeal and two-year long trial process," Swift said in a statement issued by her publicist, Tree Paine, who has been in court with Swift every day since the trial began on Monday.
"I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves."
Swift did not make an appearance outside the courthouse but her attorneys did, and were immediately swarmed by reporters and cameras.
Swift was already a winner in the case: On Friday she was dropped as a defendant in Mueller's 2015 lawsuit charging her with pressuring his Denver radio station KYGO to fire him for allegedly touching her inappropriately during the pre-concert event.
U.S. District Judge Martinez ruled in favor of Swift's motion to drop her from the lawsuit on grounds Mueller and his lawyer failed to prove in four days of witness testimony that she personally intervened in any way with his bosses to get Mueller fired.
The verdict is not surprising, says Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.
"When the judge did not even let the case against Swift go to the jury, that was a sign that it was unlikely to find anyone else liable," Tobias says. "The decisions also suggest that the jury found Swift’s version of events more credible."
Now she's the winner in her countersuit against Mueller, in which she charged him with assault and battery in connection with the groping.
Swift will get the symbolic $1 she sought, and the chance to demonstrate that women can fight back against sexual assault, even if it's belated and even if it's not in criminal court.
Mueller, who sought compensation for loss of wages, will get nothing.
The verdict came after lawyers for Swift and Mueller continued the legal dueling in their closing arguments, which at one point brought Swift to tears.
"I don’t know what kind of man grabs or gropes a music superstar ... But it’s not that guy," Mueller's lawyer, Gabriel McFarland said. He said the witnesses who testified they saw the groping, including Swift, were either lying or inconsistent in their stories.
"Nobody saw what Ms. Swift said happened...because it didn't happen," McFarland said. Mueller's story has never changed, he said, in that he has always claimed he was falsely accused.
He said a photo of the encounter — which Swift said proved her story — showed that Swift's facial expression was proof she wasn't upset at the time. Both Swift and Mueller were shown smiling in the photo.
At that point, Swift began crying, wiping her face as her mother touched her daughter's right leg and her lawyer rubbed her back.
Swift's attorney, Douglas Baldridge, reminded the jury that no one presented any evidence that Swift made up her story.
"Ms. Swift's story never changed. Ever. For four years," he told the jury. He called Mueller's lawsuit against Swift "audacious and ridiculous."
The real question, he said, is whether someone accused of sexual assault is able to sue his accuser. "Will aggressors like David Mueller be allowed to victimize their victims?" he said.
Mueller's testimony that someone else might have groped Swift, including one of his bosses, was a "complete, made-up story to stick it to his boss two years after the fact,” Baldridge said. "He's got no credibility."
Contributing: Allison Sylte, KUSA Denver, The Associated Press