Pop star Taylor Swift has won a preliminary round in a federal court trial stemming from her allegation that she was groped by a Colorado DJ, as the judge dismissed the DJ's rival claim accusing the singer of wrongfully getting him fired.
Friday's ruling by U.S. District Judge William Martinez left intact Swift's assault and battery countersuit against David Mueller, who had asserted he was falsely accused by Swift and ousted from his $150,000-a-year job at radio station KYGO-FM under pressure from her.
Mueller denies groping Swift during a 2013 meet-and-greet and was suing Swift, her mother and her radio liaison for up to $3 million US. Swift is countersuing for a symbolic $1 US and what she says is a chance to stand up for other women.
- Taylor Swift testifies: 'It was a definite grab. A very long grab'
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With jurors outside the courtroom Friday afternoon, attorneys on both sides argued over whether Mueller had presented enough evidence to send his full case to the jury. Those statements and the judge's questions focused on whether Swift herself had done anything to get Mueller fired.
That left open the possibility that the judge would throw out the claims against her but let Mueller press ahead with his allegations against her mother, Andrea Swift, and Frank Bell, their pointman with radio stations. Swift's lawsuit alleging assault and battery by Mueller was not discussed.
Jurors are to return Monday to hear closing arguments about whichever claims remain.
'Despicable and horrifying and shocking'
Earlier Friday, Swift's former bodyguard testified that he saw Mueller reach under her skirt a moment before a photographer snapped their picture during the pre-concert meet-and-greet at Denver's Pepsi Centre.
Security guard Greg Dent, who no longer works for Swift, said he was standing a few steps away but did not intervene because he generally took his cues from the pop star, and she gave him no signals during the encounter.
Seated at her legal team's table in a federal courtroom, Swift chuckled when Dent testified that, after the photo was taken, he suspected that Mueller would be at the bar of the arena — and another guard found him there.
A day earlier, Swift spent an hour on the witness stand herself defiantly recounting what she called a "despicable and horrifying and shocking" encounter.
"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 in her testimony.
Swift's testy exchange with Mueller's attorney occasionally elicited chuckles — even from the six-woman, two-man jury. She got a laugh when she said Dent saw Mueller "lift my skirt" but someone would have had to have been underneath her to see the actual groping — "and we didn't have anyone positioned there."
Image shows hand behind Swift, below waist
Swift testified that after the photo was taken, she tried to get as far away from Mueller as she could. She said she told him and his girlfriend, who was also in the photo, "thank you for coming" in a monotone voice before they left.
She also said she was stunned and did not say anything to Mueller or halt the event after he left because she did not want to disappoint several dozen people waiting in line for photos with her.
In the image, shown to jurors during opening statements but not publicly released, Mueller's hand is behind Swift, just below her waist. Mueller's then-girlfriend, Shannon Melcher, is on the other side of Swift. All three are smiling.
Melcher testified Friday that she saw nothing happen during the brief encounter and that she and Mueller were rudely confronted and escorted out of the arena that evening. Melcher testified Mueller was devastated by the accusation.
She said she and Mueller started out as co-workers at country station KYGO-FM and became romantically involved in February 2013, a few months before the concert. They drifted apart late in 2013, but Melcher says they remained friends.