Judge re­moves singer from li­a­bil­ity in case

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Danika Wor­thing­ton

Mu­si­cian Taylor Swift on Fri­day was re­moved from a fed­eral law­suit that claimed she in­ter­fered with David Mueller’s ca­reer when she al­leged the for­mer KYGO ra­dio host groped her dur­ing a pre-con­cert meet and greet.

U.S. District Court Judge Wil­liam J. Martinez granted part of Swift’s le­gal team’s mo­tion to dis­miss Mueller’s case.

The fed­eral court jury, how­ever, will de­cide whether Swift’s mother, An­drea Swift, and her ra­dio pro­mo­tions man­ager, Frank Bell, used their in­flu­ence to pres­sure KYGO into fir­ing Mueller, Martinez ruled.

Swift smiled at her lawyers when hear­ing that she was re­moved from the suit. When the court day ended, she hugged each of her lawyers be­fore hug­ging her brother and fa­ther. Her mother had left court ear­lier in the day be­cause of ill­ness.

The ju­rors were not in the court­room when Martinez heard mo­tions from lawyers for Swift and Mueller on Fri­day af­ter­noon.

Swift lawyer Dou­glas Baldridge filed the mo­tion to re­move his client, say­ing Mueller’s team had not proven his claims. “I would ask you right now, please, af­ter this or­deal, please re­move Ms. Taylor Swift from this case.”

Mueller’s lawyer, Gabe McFar­land, dis­agreed.

The stan­dard of proof for the judge to ap­prove the mo­tion — known as a Rule 50 — is one of the high­est stan­dards of law in civil cases, Martinez said, ex­plain­ing that if he were to take the case from the jury, it would be on the ba­sis that no rea­son­able jury could rule in Mueller’s fa­vor.

Swift still has a coun­ter­claim of as­sault and bat­tery by Mueller, but has the op­tion to drop it.

The jury is set to re­turn to U.S. District Court on Mon­day morn­ing, when they will hear closing state­ments and de­cide whether An­drea Swift and Bell are li­able for dam­ages.

Martinez ruled that they could be re­spon­si­ble for the wages Mueller lost when he was fired about five months into his em­ploy­ment con­tract, but they can­not be

found re­spon­si­ble for fu­ture lost wages.

Mueller sued Swift, her mother and Bell in 2015, claim­ing they in­ter­fered with his em­ploy­ment at KYGO af­ter Bell re­ported to the sta­tion Swift’s claims that the host had groped her and said it could have “grave” con­se­quences on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the singer and the sta­tion.

“Mr. Mueller’s beef is with KYGO. It’s not with my clients,” Baldridge told Martinez dur­ing the mo­tions hear­ing. “That’s the prob­lem with this case and that’s why it’s pre­sented on its head.”

Baldridge went through Mueller’s claim and ex­plained why not enough ev­i­dence had been pre­sented.

Among those rea­sons he cited was that Swift be­lieved Mueller had groped her and in­formed her mom, who was on the singer’s se­nior man­age­ment team, 13 Man­age­ment, and the equiv­a­lent of her human re­sources de­part­ment. On the stand, Mueller had agreed that some­one who be­lieved they were sex­u­ally as­saulted had the right to in­form their em­ployer.

In de­fense of his case, McFar­land ar­gued that Swift knew Mueller did not as­sault her but ac­cused him nonethe­less. Swift was vis­i­bly out­raged by the claim, glar­ing at McFar­land, throw­ing her arms in the air and look­ing back to­ward her fa­ther, brother and pub­li­cist, who were seated in the gallery.

The judge asked McFar­land what mo­ti­va­tion Swift would have to falsely ac­cuse Mueller, and if he proved it in his case. He re­sponded by ask­ing what would be Mueller’s mo­ti­va­tion to throw away his dream job by grop­ing the singer. The judge said the bur­den of proof was on Mueller, not Swift.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Baldridge ar­gued that Taylor Swift can­not be li­able for the ac­tions of Bell and An­drea Swift as their em­ployer be­cause they were not her em­ploy­ees. In­stead, they were em­ployed by 13 Man­age­ment, which was not named in the suit.

Baldridge un­suc­cess­fully ar­gued for the re­moval of An­drea Swift and Frank Bell from the suit. He pointed out that An­drea Swift never spoke to KYGO and sim­i­larly that Bell never specif­i­cally told KYGO what to do.

In­stead, Mueller’s bosses had come to their de­ci­sion based on their own in­ves­ti­ga­tion. And if that in­ves­ti­ga­tion was flawed, that’s KYGO’s fault, Baldridge said.

But the judge dis­agreed that there was no sce­nario where a jury could find them guilty.

An­drea Swift had tes­ti­fied that she “ab­so­lutely” wanted Mueller to be fired. When ex­plain­ing the in­ci­dent to KYGO, Bell had said the fam­ily was ex­tremely up­set and ex­pected the sta­tion to do the right thing.

The sta­tion’s mar­ket man­ager, Robert Call, tes­ti­fied that two of the three rea­sons he fired Mueller was be­cause of his phone con­ver­sa­tion with Bell and the photo from the meet and greet that the Swift team sent to the sta­tion.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Martinez noted that Mueller’s girl­friend had re­ported two sim­i­lar in­ci­dents of sex­ual as­sault by a KYGO em­ployee to the com­pany, but that em­ployee was not fired.

David Mueller’s then-girl­friend, Shan­non Melcher, stands in the lobby of the Al­fred A. Ar­raj Courthouse in Denver af­ter she tes­ti­fied Fri­day in Mueller’s case against Taylor Swift.

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