DENVER (AP) — A former radio disc jockey accused of groping Taylor Swift before a concert testified Tuesday that he may have touched the pop superstar's ribs with a closed hand as he tried to jump into a photo with her but insisted he did not touch her backside as she claims.
David Mueller told jurors at the civil trial on dueling lawsuits filed by Mueller and Swift that he and the singer-songwriter were trying to reach around one another and "our hands touched and our arms touched" during a photo opportunity he estimated lasted no more than 40 seconds.
Under questioning by his attorney, Mueller said he may have touched Swift's "rib cage, or rib, or ribs."
The 2013 photo of Swift, Mueller and Mueller's girlfriend taken at the pre-concert event in Denver is a key piece of evidence in Mueller's suit claiming he was fired after being falsely accused by Swift. He is seeking at least $3 million.
The photo shows Mueller with his hand behind Swift, just below her waist. Both are smiling.
Her lawyers have called the photo "damning" proof that Mueller groped her.
Mueller's lawyer, Gabriel McFarland, showed jurors the photograph during his opening remarks. Two jurors stared at the photo on their computer monitors while a few others kept glancing at it as McFarland spoke.
"If you look at that photograph, his hand is not underneath Miss Swift's skirt, and her skirt is not rumpled in any fashion," McFarland said, noting that no one on Swift's concert team saw anything amiss.
Mueller also testified that one of his station bosses, Hershel Coomer, told him that he had met Swift earlier before the show and that "he told me that he had his hands on her butt."
Mueller said, "I thought he was just telling me one of his stories."
Under cross-examination, Mueller couldn't explain why he didn't tell a boss investigating the incident about the exchange with Coomer.
Swift has said she is positive it was Mueller who groped her.
Swift has countersued Mueller, claiming sexual assault. She is seeking a symbolic $1, saying she wants to serve as an example to other women who have been assaulted.
Proceedings ended for the day Tuesday and were set to resume Wednesday.
In his opening statement, Douglas Baldridge, an attorney for Swift, told jurors that his superstar client is "absolutely certain" she was sexually assaulted and will prove it in court.
Baldridge also asked what possible reason Swift would have to make up an allegation.
"That's the one and only story we have to tell you — that Mr. Mueller grabbed her rear end," he said.
Mueller's attorney told jurors that inappropriate touching is wrong, but falsely accusing someone of the offense is equally unacceptable.
Mueller, wearing a smoke gray jacket and a white shirt, sat in court with his back to Swift and her mother, Andrea Swift.
Taylor Swift had her hair in a bun and wore a conservative black dress with tights. She is expected to testify later in the trial.
Mueller testified that he wants to clear his name and recover earnings he lost after being fired. He said he hasn't been able to get a job in radio since the incident.
"It's a humiliating experience to be accused of something that despicable," he testified.
Baldridge repeatedly interrupted Mueller during an aggressive cross-examination and noted that Mueller has said he lost an audio recording of a meeting he had with his bosses before they fired him.
"We'll never know what's on it, will we?" Baldridge asked.
"No, we won't," Mueller responded. "They're gone."
Baldridge repeatedly asked Mueller if he could grasp "any reason, incentive or motive for Miss Swift" to make up the allegation or be involved in 2 years of litigation.
"I cannot," Mueller replied.
Baldridge did get Mueller to concede that various supervisors with KYGO and its parent firm had discussed the possibility of letting him go even before the encounter with Swift.
Associated Press writer P. Solomon Banda contributed to this report.