DENVER (AP) — Immediately after a jury determined that Taylor Swift was groped by a radio station host at a backstage 2013 concert event in Denver, the singer-songwriter embraced one of her closest allies — her mother — and later said she hoped the verdict would inspire other victims of sexual assault.
Swift hugged her crying mother after the six-woman, two-man jury decided Monday in U.S. District Court that former Denver DJ David Mueller grabbed the pop star’s rear end during a photo session four years ago.
In keeping with Swift’s request, the jurors awarded her $1 in damages — an amount her attorney, Douglas Baldridge, called “a single symbolic dollar, the value of which is immeasurable to all women in this situation.”
Swift issued a statement thanking her attorneys “for fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault.”
“My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard,” she said, promising to make unspecified donations to groups that help sexual assault victims.
Nancy Leong, a University of Denver law professor, said the verdict is important because “we are getting to the point in society that women are believed in court. For many decades and centuries, that was not the case.”
Leong, who also teaches in the university’s gender studies program, said the verdict will inspire more victims of sexual assault to come forward.
“The fact that she was believed will allow women to understand that they will not automatically be disbelieved, and I think that’s a good thing,” Leong said.
Swift’s mother, Andrea Swift, tried to keep the accusation quiet by not reporting the incident to police. Instead, the singer’s management team alerted Mueller’s bosses.
But it became public when Mueller sued Swift for up to $3 million, claiming her allegation cost him his $150,000-a-year job at country station KYGO-FM, where he was a morning host.
“I’ve been trying to clear my name for four years,” Mueller told reporters after the verdict, explaining why he sued Swift. “Civil court is the only option I had. This is the only way that I could be heard.”
Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Mueller on Tuesday said he might appeal and insisted he did nothing wrong.
“I can pass a polygraph,” he said.
After Mueller sued, Swift countersued for assault and battery. During an hour of testimony last week, she blasted a low-key characterization by Mueller’s attorney, Gabriel McFarland, of what happened. While Mueller testified he never grabbed Swift, she insisted she was groped.
“He stayed attached to my bare ass-cheek as I lurched away from him,” Swift testified.
“It was a definite grab. A very long grab,” she added.
Mueller emphatically denied reaching under the pop star’s skirt or otherwise touching her inappropriately, testifying he touched her ribs and that his hand may (yes) have brushed the outside of her skirt as they awkwardly posed for the picture before Swift’s performance at an arena.
That photo was virtually the only evidence besides the testimony.
In the image shown to jurors during opening statements but not publicly released, Mueller’s hand is behind Swift, just below her waist. Both are smiling. Mueller’s then-girlfriend is standing on Swift’s other side.
Swift testified that after she was groped, she numbly told Mueller and his girlfriend, “Thank you for coming,” and moved on to photos with others waiting in line because she did not want to disappoint them.
But she said she immediately went to her photographer after the meet-and-greet ended and found the photo of her with Mueller, telling the photographer what happened.
Swift’s mother, Andrea Swift, testified that she asked radio liaison Frank Bell to call Mueller’s employers. Andrea Swift and Bell did not call police to avoid further traumatizing her daughter, she said.
“We absolutely wanted to keep it private. But we didn’t want him to get away with it,” Andrea Swift testified.
Bell said he emailed the photo to Robert Call, KYGO-FM’s general manager so Call could use it in his investigation of Mueller. Bell testified he did not ask for Mueller to be fired but that “appropriate action be taken.”
Jurors also rejected Mueller’s claims that Andrea Swift and Bell cost him his job.
U.S. District Judge William Martinez last Friday dismissed claims that Taylor Swift ruined Mueller’s career, ruling that Mueller’s legal team failed to present evidence that the then-23-year-old superstar did anything more than report the groping to her representatives, including her mother.