The truth behind the Taylor Swift groping scandal

Some stars shine so brightly they get burned. Unfortunately for songstress Taylor Swift, that's just what happened to her. After getting hit with a major lawsuit, the country singer-turned-pop icon countersued—paving the way for what's become a lengthy legal battle. Here's everything you need to know about Swift's high-profile he-said-she-said trial.

She accused a DJ of groping her at an event

The "Shake It Off" singer is well-known for her approachable attitude toward her millions of fans. Before a Colorado concert at the Pepsi Center on June 2, 2013, Swift's usual, sugar-sweet persona was on display while she posed for photos with fans at a meet-and-greet before the big show. However, this pre-concert event apparently did not go as expected. As the Daily Mail reported, Swift accused DJ David "Jackson" Mueller, who attended the meet-and-greet as part of his job with radio country music station 98.5 KYGO, of reaching under her skirt and groping her while they took a photo together.

"He put his hand under my dress and grabbed my bare ass," Swift told the court on July 26, 2016 (via TMZ). "As soon as he grabbed my ass, I became shocked and withdrawn and was barely able to say 'Thanks for coming,' which is what I say to everybody. I was barely able to get the words out, and it was like somebody switched the lights off in my personality."

The DJ sued after losing his job

Mueller was reportedly fired from his gig at KYGO just two days after the alleged incident, according to Page Six. In response, Mueller filed a lawsuit against Swift in September 2015, accusing her of getting him fired after her security detail falsely claimed that he'd inappropriately touched her. 

Swift's team released a statement, alleging that it brought KYGO evidence of the incident, and the radio station made the decision to terminate Mueller, not Swift and her team.

The Daily Mail reported that Mueller, who accused Swift of defamation, claimed he later heard one of his co-workers bragging about touching Swift's buttocks during a meet-and-greet photo.

Swift's legal team countersued for battery and assault

Of course, Swift and her team didn't just let Mueller's accusations go unnoticed. In addition to issuing a statement denying their involvement in Mueller's termination, the superstar countersued for battery and sexual assault and refuted Mueller's claim that another man had groped her.

"Resolution of this Counterclaim will demonstrate that Mueller alone was the perpetrator of the humiliating and wrongful conduct targeted against Ms. Swift," the lawsuit said (via People), "and will serve as an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts." 

According to the court papers, Swift felt "surprised, upset, offended, and alarmed," after the alleged assault and quickly informed her photographer, tour manager, and security guards. "Mueller did not merely brush his hand against Ms. Swift while posing for the photograph," the documents stated. "He lifted her skirt and groped her."

Both parties sought expert witnesses

When you want to win a legal battle, you need to enlist some help from professionals—and that's just what both Swift and Mueller did. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Swift recruited gender studies expert, Dr. Lorraine Bayard de Volo, who teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder. In a report assessing Mueller's alleged behavior, de Volo wrote that "motives for sexual harassment and sexual assault boil down to protection or assertion of status, including efforts to boost or repair an ego, get retribution, humiliate, intimidate, or (in cases of high-status women) invert a power imbalance between target and harasser." Essentially, de Volo argued that Mueller may have assaulted Swift in an attempt to reassert his "masculine status."

Mueller's attorney, Gabriel McFarland, refuted de Volo's assessment and utilized economist Jeffrey B. Opp to discuss the financial ramifications of Swift's alleged defamation (via The Denver Post).

Both Swift and Mueller later filed papers to have de Volo's and Opp's testimonies excluded from the case, according to The Wrap.

Mueller reportedly destroyed key evidence

In July 2017, The Denver Post reported that U.S. District Judge William Martinez had sanctioned Mueller for allegedly destroying or tossing out four electronic devices that may have contained key evidence pertaining to the case, including a two-hour audio recording taped during an interview Mueller had with his KYGO employer on the day he was fired.

Mueller's former boss, Robert Call, claimed the recording proved that the DJ had changed his story about the groping incident, thus casting doubt on Mueller's credibility.

So what's Mueller's excuse for getting rid of all that tech? The Denver Post noted that Mueller said he destroyed or lost his cell phone, laptop, iPad, and computer for several different reasons. For example, he said he spilled coffee on his laptop.

Martinez ultimately determined that Mueller didn't toss his electronics out of "bad faith."

Swift wanted to keep the details private

The singer reportedly had no interest in making her case public. According to TMZ, Swift wanted to keep any photos from her meet-and-greet session with Mueller—the one where he allegedly groped her—under wraps, asking a judge to seal the images. Apparently, she was afraid the photos would "be shared for scandalous and prurient interests."

She also reportedly thought the release of the photos could potentially influence the jury pool. "The interest in a fair and impartial trial outweigh any public interest in access to the documents identified above," court papers filed by her legal team read.

Unfortunately for Swift, at least one of the photos was released. It shows Swift posing beside Mueller and his girlfriend.

They headed to court

Nearly two years after Mueller and Swift filed their respective lawsuits, they finally made their way to court. A civil trial began on Aug. 7, 2017, in a federal court in Denver, Colo. According to NBC News, Mueller is seeking $3 million in damages, while Swift has asked for just $1, a symbolic gesture to go along with a guilty verdict for Mueller. Court documents said Swift's case aims to serve "as an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts."

On Aug. 8, 2017, an eight-person jury was selected after a thorough vetting process. TMZ reported that potential jurors had to answer a lengthy questionnaire in an attempt to weed out any die-hard Swift fans. According to BuzzFeed News, two men and four women were chosen to serve as jurors.

The trial was open to the public

Swift and Mueller's trial, which is open to the public, caused a media frenzy before it even began as fans clamored to gain access to the high-profile event. However, as The Denver Post noted, U.S. District Court clerk Jeffrey Colwell made it clear that there were going to be rules that had to be followed or courtroom observers would be kicked out.

For instance, people were not to be come and go from the courtroom. If a person was permitted access, they had to remain there for the duration of the courtroom drama. Observers were also prohibited from wearing any apparel referencing the parties involved in the trial and could not bring banners or signs into the courtroom. Electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops were also not allowed.

Passes were reportedly given out to the public in the morning and afternoon on a first-come, first-serve basis. Only 32 people were allowed to sit in the courtroom audience at any given time. Another 75 individuals were permitted to enter an overflow room, where they could watch the trial on a closed-circuit television.

The legal teams made opening statements

With the jury selected, both parties and their respective attorneys addressed the court on Aug. 8, 2017. 

The Denver Post reported that Swift's lawyer, Douglas Baldridge, said he would prove his client was sexually assaulted during the course of the trial, as Swift was "absolutely certain" of the details of the alleged incident. In response to Mueller's previous allegations that Swift fabricated the entire event, Baldrige questioned what motives Swift could possibly have for lying. Baldridge told the court, "That's the one and only story we have to tell you—that Mr. Mueller grabbed her rear end."

Mueller's attorney implied that Swift made up her entire claim. According to BBC News, lawyer Gabriel McFarland showed the jury the photo from Swift's meet-and-greet with Mueller. In the picture, the DJ can be seen with his right hand behind the singer, but McFarland said her client's hand "is not underneath Miss Swift's skirt, and her skirt is not rumpled in any fashion." McFarland added, "Falsely accusing someone of inappropriate touching is equally offensive, equally wrong and should not be tolerated."

Mueller takes the stand

Mueller took the stand on Aug. 8, 2017 and during cross-examination, Swift's attorney, Baldridge, asked the DJ to "identify any reason, incentive, and motive why Swift would want to be involved in two years of litigation" with him (via BuzzFeed News). In response, Mueller was reportedly at a loss for words.

While testifying, Mueller also admitted to having been warned by two people that he was in danger of losing his job as a result of his less-than-stellar workplace relationships. Regarding the audio recording he reportedly lost or destroyed, he said, "To be perfectly frank, I was never told that these items were evidence."

According to ABC News, when questioned by his own attorney, Mueller informed the court that he may have touched Swift's "rib cage, or rib, or ribs" with a closed hand, but he maintained that he never grabbed her butt.

Swift's mother took the stand

On Aug. 9, 2017, Swift' mother, Andrea, testified against Mueller. USA Today reported that Andrea, who admitted to not seeing the alleged incident first-hand, pointed at Mueller and said "that guy" had "sexually assaulted" her child. She told the jury, "[Taylor] was really shaken. She was humiliated."

Crying during her testimony, Andrea said she was so upset after her daughter told her about the alleged groping that she "wanted to vomit and cry at the same time."

Andrea also explained why Swift didn't report the incident to the police. She claimed that she didn't want that one moment to "define [Taylor's] life," BuzzFeed News reported. "I did not want every interview from this point on to have to talk about it," Andrea said. "I did not want her to go through the endless memes and trolls and make her relive that awful moment."

Swift testifies about the alleged groping

The "Bad Blood" singer took the stand on Aug. 10, 2017. According to BuzzFeed News, she called the alleged groping incident "very shocking" and "despicable" and clarified that Mueller didn't merely touch her but grabbed her. "He grabbed my ass underneath my skirt. It was underneath my skirt," she told the court.

During cross-examination, Mueller's lawyer told Swift that, if the photo session had made her so upset, she should have taken a break afterward. In response, Swift said, "And your client could have taken a normal photo with me." Swift, who alleged that Mueller appeared intoxicated the night of the incident, added that she didn't want to disappoint her fans who were excited about the night's meet-and-greet.

When asked about Mueller's termination from KYGO, Swift responded, "I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is anyway my fault, because it isn't."

Page Six noted that Swift, when questioned about whether she knew for certain that Mueller was the man who groped her, told the court that she could "have picked [Mueller] out of a line of a thousand."

"You can ask me a million questions about it and I'm never going to say something different," Swift said. "I never have said anything different."

The pop star was later backed up in court by both her backstage photographer, who testified that she saw Mueller grope Swift, and by KYGO Program Director Eddie Haskell, who questioned why Mueller would sue Swift when it was the radio station that fired him.

Celebrities praised Swift for fighting back against assault

A number of A-listers spoke out in favor of Swift, showing their support for the singer taking a stand against sexual assault. Swift's pal and Girls star Lena Dunham tweeted, "Proud of @taylorswift13 for her fierce & cutting testimony & her refusal to settle for being treated like property. Her example is powerful."

Swift's close friend, actress Jaime King, whose son, Leo, is the singer's godchild, also posted about the big trial, writing, "@taylorswift13 is F***ING BRAVE. ALL deserve justice—to be heard, honored & respected. No matter race, creed, socioeconomic status, gender."

Nelly Furtado, Ashley Judd, and George Takei also shared their support for Swift.

Kesha backed Swift

Like Dunham and King before her, Kesha (full name Kesha Sebert) also spoke about Swift's groping scandal. The "Praying" singer tweeted, "@taylorswift13 i support you always, and especially right now and admire your strength and fearlessness." She added, "Truth is always the answer."

Kesha's support is personal. When was embroiled in a court case with Sony music producer Dr. Luke (real name Lukasz Gottwald), whom she accused of sexual, physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, Swift stepped up and helped a girl out. According to Entertainment Tonight, Swift gave Kesha $250,000 to help her fellow pop star out with any of her "financial needs." During Kesha's legal battle, she was forbidden from releasing new music. 

Mueller's lawsuit against Swift was tossed out

On Aug. 11, 2017, the judge presiding over Swift and Mueller's case threw out his lawsuit. According to TMZ, the judge dropped the case due to insufficient evidence. Reportedly, since Swift only told her mother and her team about the alleged assault—and never Mueller's KYGO employer—there was no way to prove that Swift was in any way responsible for Mueller's termination.

Though Swift was cleared as a defendant, the lawsuit remained intact regarding its allegations against the singer's mother and various team members.

Swift's bodyguard reportedly witnessed the groping

Greg Dent, Swift's former bodyguard, took the witness stand on Aug. 11, 2017 and told the court what he witnessed on that fateful day in 2013.

"His hand went under her skirt. I did not see his hand touch her physically. I saw his hand under her skirt," Dent told the court (via Us Weekly). "She reacted, pushed her skirt down and moved over. So in my opinion, I knew he touched her."

Calling the incident "a violation of her body," Dent admitted that he did not confront Mueller at the time because Swift did not give him an order to react to the situation. "She continued on with the meet-and-greet and since she didn't give me any indication to do anything, I stood off to the side," he said. "I know what I saw but I didn't do anything because she said that sometimes I was a little too mean… I am sure she would have said something if she wanted me to intervene."

Mueller's ex-girlfriend testified

Among those who took the stand during the course of the trial was Mueller's ex-girlfriend, Shannon Melcher. She took the meet-and-greet photo with Swift and Mueller in 2013. According to The Sun, Melcher claimed she overheard someone ask Mueller, "Are you happy with what you've done?" She said Mueller replied, "I don't know what you are talking about."

Melcher added that she never heard Mueller change his story regarding the alleged groping incident, stating that he'd maintained his innocence throughout the time leading up to the trial.

Melcher also alleged that she'd once been groped by one of Mueller's co-workers—though she'd never reported it—and said Mueller had been "very much" upset to think that someone had touched her inappropriately.

The Denver Post reported that Melcher didn't have much to add to the controversy surrounding the meet-and-greet. "I wasn't paying attention directly to what [Mueller] was doing to get into the photo," she said. "It happened very quickly, to be honest. I was aware that he was trying to get into the frame." She said she didn't see if Mueller had grabbed Swift's butt because she doesn't "have eyes at the back of [her] head."

Swift cried during closing statements

On Aug. 14, 2017, Swift's and Mueller's lawyers made closing statements to the jury. The Los Angeles Times reported that Mueller's attorney went first, arguing that his client "is not the guy" that groped Swift. He also referenced the meet-and-greet photo, telling jurors, "Look at Ms. Swift's face. Is that the face of someone who's in shock, who is upset?"

After some of the comments made by Mueller's lawyer, Swift was seen shaking her head and heard audibly sighing, according to E! News. At one point, she even reportedly mouthed, "Wow." After Mueller's attorney showed the jury the photo of the alleged groping, Swift reportedly broke down in tears, covering her face with her hands as both her mother and her lawyer tried to console her.

When it was time for Swift's lawyer to make his closing statements, he asked the jury (via the Los Angeles Times), "Will aggressors like David Mueller be allowed to victimize their victims?" He then reminded the jury that Swift's case went beyond the alleged groping and was representative of the larger issue of men sexually assaulting women and getting away with it. He asked jurors to "return a verdict for a single dollar, a single symbolic dollar, the value of which is immeasurable to all women in this situation."

The jury reached a verdict

After deliberating for about four hours, jurors found Mueller to be guilty of assault and battery, reported by CNN. He'll be required to pay $1 in damages to Swift, as she requested. The jury also determined that Swift's mother and her team were "not liable for tortious interference," in regards to Mueller's radio station gig termination.

According to Entertainment Tonight, Baldridge told reporters outside the courthouse that he was "delighted" by the trial's outcome. "It takes wonderful people like Taylor to stand up and draw these lines," he said.

Swift thanked the judge and the jurors for their decision

Following the conclusion of the court case, the "Blank Space" singer released a statement regarding her legal victory, its implications for other women in similar positions, and her plans for the future.

"I want to thank Judge William J. Martinez and the jury for their careful consideration, my attorneys Doug Baldridge, Danielle Foley, Jay Schaudies and Katie Wright for fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault, and especially anyone who offered their support throughout this four-year ordeal and two-year long trial process," Swift began (via Entertainment Tonight).

"I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this," the pop star continued, adding, "My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves."

Mueller continued to deny all accusations

Though he was found guilty of assault, Mueller has maintained that he's innocent of all charges made against him by Swift. The day after the jury delivered its verdict, Mueller spoke with Good Morning America, saying, "I never grabbed her. I never had my hand under her skirt and I can pass a polygraph."

He said he initially wasn't even going to pose for the meet-and-greet photo with Swift, noting that he "wasn't ready" for the picture. "I wasn't invited to be in the photo," he said. "I just moved into the shot the best I could."

Mueller claimed his lawsuit wasn't about the money. He claimed he just wanted to get a note from Swift to help him secure future employment. "I asked for something in writing which stated that there was a misunderstanding," he said. "And I can take that to possibly convince someone at a radio station to hire me."

Mueller reportedly may appeal the court's decision.