Taylor Swift’s legal team on Tuesday began walking jurors through a 2013 backstage photo shoot where the singer alleges a disc jockey reached under her skirt and grabbed her butt.
“It was an assault and Ms. Swift reported it,” the singer’s attorney, Douglas Baldridge, said. “She has been in tens of thousands of meet-and-greets, including going out in the crowds, and she never had this happen.”
Swift and the DJ, David Mueller, are in federal court in Denver for lawsuits they filed against each other over the allegations.
Mueller was first to file his lawsuit in 2015, claiming the allegations were false and led to his being fired. Swift followed with a lawsuit of her own against Mueller, alleging sexual assault.
Now, two years later, the jury of two men and six women will decide who’s telling the truth.
In his opening statement Tuesday, Mueller’s attorney, Gabriel McFarland, told jurors that sexual assault is clearly wrong, but so is “falsely accusing someone” of inappropriately touching.
“David Mueller unequivocally denies he touched her inappropriately in anyway,” McFarland said. “No inappropriate contact that is Mr. Mueller’s position.”
A piece of evidence that will play a central role in the trial is a photograph obtained by TMZ and sealed by the court that shows Mueller standing next to Swift with his hand behind her and below her waist.
Swift’s attorneys have called the image “damning” proof, but legal experts say that since the photo doesn’t actually show any groping, the case will rest heavily on credibility.
Swift’s contention, McFarland said, is that they met and then “30 seconds he’s got his hand up her skirt.”
“I don’t know what kind of person would do that,” he told the court. “There were 10 people in the room in and not one of them said they saw anything.”
Swift has argued she has no motivation to make up the allegation, and is fighting Mueller in court to ”serve as an example” to other women who have been assaulted.
“What possible motivation would Taylor Swift have to make up a story?” Baldridge said. “Ms. Swift will get on the stand and tell you that she is absolutely certain that David Mueller grabbed her rear.”
In court documents, Mueller said he voluntarily passed a polygraph in which he denied inappropriate contact with Swift, but at the end of the day, “it is his word against hers,” Howard King, who has represented Dr. Dre, Metallica, and Lil Wayne, told BuzzFeed News before the trial.
Unlike a criminal case, the jury of eight don’t have to reach a decision beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, they must only be convinced by a “preponderance of the evidence” in order for one side to prevail, or as one attorney put it, “50% and a feather.”
Swift’s team said they went to Mueller’s management, and not police, in an effort to keep the incident under the radar, but that all changed when the DJ filed his lawsuit.
“What is at stake is, will this man be able to stifle a young woman’s ability to report a sexual assault?” Baldridge told jurors. “If this person cannot stand up and serve as an example to other young women who have been sexually assaulted, then who can?”