On Friday (Aug. 11), U.S. District Judge William Martinez dismissed a lawsuit against pop superstar Taylor Swift filed by the former country-radio DJ whom she accused of grabbing her rear end during a 2013 Pepsi Center meet-and-greet. In his lengthy end-of-a-long-day ruling, Martinez agreed that the DJ, David Mueller, and his attorney, had not provided enough evidence that Swift personally had set out to get him fired.
Martinez also removed most of the claims against Swift’s co-defendants, her mother Andrew Swift and radio specialist Frank Bell, both members of her management team. However, a jury will still consider one of David Mueller’s claims, involving tortious interference with contracts, against Andrea Swift and Bell.
The case is far from over. In addition to Mueller’s remaining claim, Swift’s counter-claim, accusing the ex-DJ of assault and battery, is scheduled to go forward Monday morning.
The rulings are a victory for Swift’s legal team, which had been so confident that attorney Douglas Baldridge announced earlier Friday he would call no witnesses. “We believe the defendants have already met their burden through examinations so far,” he said.
The pop superstar and members of her team have testified unequivocally that, as she put it on the witness stand Thursday, Mueller “reached under my skirt and grabbed my ass.” By contrast, over two days of testimony earlier this week, Mueller, 55, struggled to remember details, sighed and expressed frustration during questioning.
Two days after the June 2, 2013, Pepsi Center incident, KYGO terminated Mueller’s $150,000-per-year contract; in 2015, Mueller sued Swift, her mother and Bell, for defamation. Mueller denies any inappropriate touching and calls what happened in the photo booth “awkward” — in “jostling” to put his arm around Swift, he said he may have mistakenly grazed her rib.
Swift counter-sued Mueller for assault and the civil trial opened Monday.
Three people, including Swift herself, have now testified as witnesses to what Swift calls an assault. The latest, bodyguard Greg Dent, said Friday morning he saw Mueller “put his hand behind her and put it under her skirt, he touched her, she jumped, [he] put her skirt down.”
Mueller’s attorney, Gabriel McFarland, pressed Dent on whether he saw the actual inappropriate touching. Swift’s personal bodyguard responded: “I did not see his hand touch her physically. I saw his hand under her skirt. She reacted…. I knew he touched her.”
The third witness, Stephanie Simbeck, who took the June 2, 2013, photo-booth shot of Swift, Mueller and his girlfriend, Shannon Melcher, had said Thursday she “saw his hand on her butt.”
Swift’s attorneys have sought to paint Mueller, 55, who has been sitting motionless in court across from Swift in a dark suit and tie, as a disgruntled KYGO employee who felt disrespected and ignored by the time he entered the meet-and-greet photo booth. He and his co-host, Ryan “Rino” Kliesch, had been struggling with low morning ratings and resisted efforts by their boss, program director Eddie Haskell, to add a female DJ to their team. Haskell preferred an experienced radio host, while they rejected his candidate and suggested a coffeehouse barista.
“I remember Mueller specifically saying, ‘If it’s not her, we don’t care,'” Haskell testified Thursday, referring to the barista. “I found that to be insubordination.”
Kliesch, however, testified Friday morning that he and Mueller were looking for “somebody that did not sound like they were in radio” and Haskell’s preferred candidate “sounded like a DJ.”
Mueller testified earlier this week he and Haskell had “difficulties” getting along. When he filed his complaint in 2015, he said it was Haskell who boasted, before Swift’s Pepsi Center concert, of grabbing the pop star’s bottom while hugging her. Both Haskell and Swift denied this in their testimony, but Kliesch, a close Mueller friend, recalled the conversation: “[Haskell] said to me that when he hugged Taylor, he thought that she had biker shorts on underneath her skirt.”
Mueller’s girlfriend at the time, former KYGO account executive Melcher, testified that she did not see the morning-show host assault the pop star during their brief time in the photo booth.
“But, of course, I was facing forward,” she said. “I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.”
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