Superstar’s Sexual Assault Lawsuit Goes Viral

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Fans give three cheers for Swift

Celebrity Taylor Swift has millions of fans, but it’s safe to say David Mueller is not one of them.

This past week, Swift has been defending allegations in a Denver courtroom that the former DJ touched her inappropriately at a meet-and-greet event in 2013. After the photo shoot that evening, Swift reportedly complained to security personnel and family that Mueller, who posed for the picture with Swift and his girlfriend Shannon Melcher, intentionally reached under her skirt and grabbed her rear end. At the time of the incident Swift was 23 and Mueller was 51. Taylor Swift’s team told Mueller’s employer, KYGO, about the misconduct, which resulted in his termination two days later.

Two years later, in 2015, Mueller brought legal action against the American superstar. He sued for slander and claimed Swift interfered with his job contract, which ultimately cost him a job that paid $150,000 per year. Prior to the firing, the DJ worked in radio for two decades. Mueller has not brought a lawsuit against KYGO, but he seeks $3 million in damages from Swift. Mueller has acknowledged that the photo of him with his right hand behind Swift appeared awkward, but he maintained innocence throughout the ordeal, saying that his hand was placed at Swift’s rib-cage level, and “apparently” went (unintentionally) below that level. Mueller contends that it is “a humiliating experience to be accused of something that despicable.” His lawsuit states that the probability of Mueller groping Swift, while standing near his girlfriend and in front of Swift’s photographer and security personnel, is “nonsense.” However, testimony in Swift’s defense suggests otherwise.

“I could see that there was something horribly wrong” said Andrea Swift, Taylor Swift’s mother, after meeting her daughter in the dressing room after the event. Ms. Swift said she felt physically ill after hearing her daughter’s account of what happened, but that she “[does] not want this event to define her life.” Later that night, one of Swift’s bodyguards approached Mueller to inquire about the alleged incident. Frank Bell, Swift’s radio promotion director, informed Mueller’s employer about the situation. Stephanie Simbeck, the photographer taking pictures at the event, testified that she saw Swift move quickly to the side during the photograph, and at first believed that the star simply tripped. Simbeck reported seeing an uncomfortable look on Swift’s face during the photo, and claims that she saw Mueller’s hand on Swift’s rear. Robert Call, Mueller’s previous boss, testified that he was “shocked” and “embarrassed” following the event, and worried about the impact on his radio station. In a telling video, Swift adds her own account of the evening’s event.

Swift’s case follows on the heels of the high-profile case involving Fox sportscaster Erin Andrews, who was awarded $55 million in 2016 after being secretly videotaped in a hotel in 2008. In addition to Andrews, Swift adds her voice to other public figures who have spoken out about past assaults, including comedian Amy Schumer, singers Madonna, Kesha, Lady Gaga, and Mary J. Blige, television host Oprah Winfrey, actresses Mo’Nique, Queen Latifah and Pamela Anderson, and activist Maya Angelou.

Swift’s legal battle continues to rage, but she continues to receive support from friends, family, and fans. To demonstrate a concern for raising awareness of sexual assault, she initially opted to donate her court proceeds to charitable organizations designed to protect women from similar harm. Swift later revised her statement to request a mere $1 if she wins. If Mueller is found guilty, he will join a group of fewer than one percent of perpetrators who are imprisoned for sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest Network (RAINN). Testimony for the trial is expected to go through August 17, 2017, but it is not clear yet when a decision will be made.