A few moments at a backstage photo session four years ago are about to be relived, as lawyers for pop star Taylor Swift and a former disc jockey she accuses of groping her begin picking jurors in their duelling lawsuits.
Radio host David Mueller sued the singer-songwriter, saying he was falsely accused and that she should have called police instead of his bosses, who fired him soon after the June 2013 encounter. He is seeking up to 3 million US dollars in damages.
Swift countersued, claiming sexual assault, setting up the civil trial where she is expected to give evidence amid tightened security.</p
Jury selection is to start on Monday and opening statements are expected to begin on Tuesday. The case could last two weeks and court documents say it is unlikely either side will settle.
Swift is seeking a verdict that holds Mueller responsible and “serving as an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts”, her lawsuit says.
Mueller is also expected to give evidence, along with his former boss and members of Swift’s entourage.
Mueller, then 51, was a morning host at a country music station when he was assigned to attend Swift’s concert at the Pepsi Centre in Denver. Mueller was backstage with his girlfriend when they met Swift, then 23, in a curtained enclosure. They posed for a photo and left.
Later, Swift’s bodyguard confronted Mueller with the allegation that he had reached under the singer’s dress and grabbed her buttocks.
Mueller denied the allegation and asked that they call police. He and his girlfriend were escorted out of the arena and a member of Swift’s team called his boss.
Swift never went to the police. She tried to keep the situation “discreet and quiet and confidential” and was upset by Mueller’s claim that “for some reason she might have some incentive to actually fabricate this story”, her lawyer, Douglas Baldridge, has argued in court.
Mueller’s lawyer, Gabriel McFarland, argues that Mueller may have been misidentified after someone else touched Swift.
Jurors will have to determine not just whose story to believe but what to make of a photograph that both sides say proves their case.
The photo shows Mueller with his right hand behind the singer, just below her waist, before the concert. It is inconclusive whether he is touching her. Both are smiling.
Swift’s lawyers called the image “damning” proof that Mueller inappropriately touched her. Mueller argued that it shows him trying to jump into the frame.
Entertainment news outlet TMZ obtained and published the photo, which has since been sealed by the court.
Swift’s business manager, Jesse Schaudies Jr, said her side did not want the picture in the news.
“We did not want copycats and one-uppers abounding. And that happens in our world,” he said last year. “These people all tend to escalate. I’ve watched what happens with these files and individuals.”
Swift said: “He took his hand and put it up my dress and grabbed on to my ass cheek.”
Immediately after the meet-and-greet, Swift said, she confirmed the assault with a photographer and security staff, who then confronted Mueller.
Mueller said he told the security staff: “Please call the police. I didn’t do anything.”
Swift’s security guard was about 3ft (about 1m) away during the meet-and-greet, Mueller said. Swift remained pleasant as she bid Mueller and his girlfriend goodbye, he said, and more than a dozen people met Swift after Mueller left.
Swift said: “It was not an accident. It was completely intentional, and I have never been so sure of anything in my life.”
A member of Swift’s staff called Mueller’s boss at radio station KYGO and asked the station to “take appropriate action”.
Swift maintained she was sexually assaulted, but she was trying to keep the matter discreet and quiet. She said she did not know Mueller and had no incentive to target him or to fabricate a story.
Mueller’s boss said the DJ told him during an internal investigation that any contact during the photo opportunity was incidental or accidental.
Swift’s mother and a member of her team are also defendants in the lawsuit filed by Mueller.