On the opening day of the Taylor Swift groping trial, a former DJ denied ever touching the singer's buttocks at a photo session before her concert in 2013. Former radio host David Mueller, who sued Swift two years after being fired by his radio station as a result of the encounter, testified Tuesday at the civil trial in Denver that he may have touched Swift's "rib cage, or rib, or ribs" with a closed hand as he tried to jump into a photo with her.
Mueller said he and Swift were trying to reach around one another and their hands and arms touched during a meet-and-greet that he estimated lasted 40 seconds or less.
Jurors were shown a photo of the encounter, which has been sealed. The photo in question shows Mueller with his hand behind Swift, just below her waist, at the pre-concert event. Swift and Mueller are both smiling in the picture.
"If you look at that photograph, his hand is not underneath Miss Swift's skirt, and her skirt is not rumpled in any fashion," said Mueller's lawyer, Gabriel McFarland. Swift's lawyers have called the image "damning" proof that Mueller inappropriately touched her.
Swift, who has countersued Mueller, was present in court yesterday as an eight-member jury was selected to hear her civil trial.
Mueller's lawyer began with an opening statement telling the jury that inappropriate touching is offensive and wrong but that "falsely accusing someone of inappropriate touching is equally offensive" and wrong. During his testimony, Mueller said that he wants to vindicate himself and recoup lost earnings after being fired from his dream job over the claim. He said he was earning $150,000 under a two-year contract that began six months before the concert.
In his opening statement, Swift's lawyer Douglas Baldridge, "That's the one and only story we have to tell you - that Mr. Mueller grabbed her rear end," also emphasizing the age difference between Mueller, then 51, and Swift, then 23.
In a twist, Mueller also testified yesterday 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." But under cross-examination, Mueller couldn't explain why he didn't tell a boss investigating the incident about the exchange with Coomer.
Swift's attorney says Swift is seeking a symbolic $1 in her counterclaim and isn't trying to bankrupt Mueller. He says she's showing others that "you can always say no."