Taylor Swift has something that most victims of sexual misconduct never get: Photographic evidence.
Swift alleges that Denver radio DJ David Mueller groped her during a backstage meet-and-greet in 2013. Last September, Mueller sued Swift; he claimed that her accusations got him fired. Swift countersued in October for assault and battery, asserting that Mueller “intentionally reached under her skirt, and groped with his hand an intimate part of her body in an inappropriate manner, against her will, and without her permission.” Four months after that, Mueller added slander to his existing lawsuit against Swift. He says that Swift’s allegations were false and that his then-boss, Eddie Haskell, actually committed the crime and bragged about it after the fact.
It turns out there is a photograph of the incident in question, and on Friday, Swift’s legal team succeeded in their efforts to keep that picture from the public.
As Billboard reported, Swift’s lawyers argued to keep the photo private because “it is all but assured that the photograph will be shared for scandalous and prurient interests.” A judge agreed to keep the picture sealed — but denied Swift’s request to withhold other evidence, which means her July 26 deposition about the alleged assault is now publicly available.
In the deposition, Swift recounts the experience multiple times. When asked about the “alleged inappropriate touching,” she clarifies, “Just for the record, it was more of a grab than a touch.”
The grab, she says, was “underneath my clothing.” In her answer to a follow-up question, she elaborates in language she rarely uses in public: “He put his hand under my dress and grabbed my bare ass,” a phrase she repeats several times later on (emphasis added):
“Right as the moment came for us to pose for the photo, he took his hand and put it up my dress and grabbed onto my ass cheek and no matter how much I scooted over it was still there. It was completely intentional, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.”
She is asked if she and Mueller touched hands while getting in position for the photograph. “His hand grabbed my ass, not my hand.”
As soon as he grabbed my ass, I became shocked and withdrawn and was barely able to say “Thanks for coming,” which is what I say to everybody.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. So it was pretty quick that he was gone after that.
Swift says she tried to adjust while the assault was taking place, but she couldn’t evade Mueller. “It was not an accident… I moved as far away from that man as I could, and he continued to inappropriately grab my ass under my dress.”
The sealed photo, as Swift describes it, shows Mueller “in progress of lifting my skirt in order to grab my ass underneath it.” Pressed on whether or not the photo captures Mueller’s hand where Swift says it was, she replies:
It’s impossible to know if that was the moment before the moment of him grabbing it or the moment when he was latched on and wouldn’t let go even though I was squirming and obviously lurching to the side towards his female companion because I was shocked and scared and stunned.
She is asked, repeatedly, about what exactly the photo depicts; she keeps responding by saying that “I was there, so I felt it… I experienced it. It happened to me, so I’m positive that it did happen.” Still, she is required to, in her words, “go through this again,” and say that “it’s impossible for me to definitively answer whether the moment capture on the photo is the moment” in question.
“But I was there,” she says again. “I felt it. I know it happened.”
Swift says that, aside from lawyers, the only person with whom she has spoken about Mueller is her mother, whom she saw in her dressing room immediately after the alleged assault. While relating what had just happened to her mom, Swift says, “I remember being frantic, distressed, feeling violated in a way I had never experienced before.”
A meet-and-greet is supposed to be a situation where you’re thanking people for coming, you’re supposed to be welcoming people into your home, which is the arena for that day, and for someone to violate that hospitality in that way, I was completely stunned.”
Swift’s mom “became really upset, obviously, and it was pretty chaotic.” The conversation was “very emotionally charged,” and her mom was “responding as any parent would, which is with absolute — just absolute horror.”
Swift says she never considered calling the police and has no recollection of her reaction to the news that Mueller had been fired. She maintains that she did not intentionally get involved with Mueller’s contract. As Swift’s legal team writes, Mueller “was terminated by his employer, KYGO, after its own independent investigation of the incident.”
Swift also argues that Mueller’s slander claims are outside the statute of limitations — he didn’t add them to his second amended complaint until February 25, 2016, in the wake of Swift’s countersuit— more than two and a half years after the alleged assault, and Swift’s reporting of it, took place.
In her countersuit, Swift pointed out that she has posed for “countless” photographs with fans, radio personalities, and heaps of people from the music industry. In the thousands of events she’s held, “she has been inappropriately groped one time.”
Swift rose to prominence in a genre — country — in which radio is famously king, and she has gone out of her way to charm the men (and they are mostly men) who decide what songs get airtime and which suffocate without it; she still writes handwritten, personalized thank you notes to DJs. In the deposition, Swift is asked about Haskell (Mueller’s then-boss, who Mueller alleges was the person who actually groped Swift) and Swift is quick to say she has known him for at least a decade. Asked how many times she met him, she says, “At least once a year for every year since I was 15… I consider him a really good partner in business.”
Swift has said she plans to donate any financial reward from the lawsuit to charities “dedicated to protecting women from similar acts of sexual assault and personal disregard.”