Taylor Swift's bodyguard says he saw man grope star's bottom




 

By Keith Coffman and Jann Tracey

DENVER (Reuters) - Pop star Taylor Swift's former bodyguard told a federal jury on Friday that a former disc jockey the singer-songwriter accuses of groping her bottom had been drinking and that he saw the man's hand go under her skirt during a photo shoot.

Former bodyguard Greg Dent was testifying in a U.S. District Court trial that is considering the 27-year-old performer's allegation that former radio disc jockey David Mueller assaulted her at a meet-and-greet session with fans before a 2013 concert in Denver.

Mueller, 55, says the Grammy-winning performer of hits such as "Fearless," "Bad Blood" and "I Knew You Were Trouble," falsely accused him, then got him fired from his $150,000-a-year job at Denver radio station KYGO-FM.

Under questioning from the former disc jockey's attorney, Gabriel McFarland, Dent told the court he witnessed the incident.

"I saw his hand under her skirt. ... Her skirt went up. ... She jumped," Dent testified, adding that Swift then moved closer to Mueller's girlfriend, who was standing on the other side of the singer for the photograph.

"I was definitely sure that he had been drinking," Dent said of Mueller. "I don't know what level. He wasn't staggering or falling down."

Dent, a former police officer who testified that he had also worked for the National Security Agency, said he took his cues from Swift and that she continued the meet-and-greet session, so he did not immediately intervene. When she finished meeting her fans, Dent said, Swift told her staff about the groping.

Dent said he had guarded many other celebrities, whom he declined to name due to confidentiality agreements. He said he thought Swift - who has won 10 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Best Music Video - was "too fan-friendly" because she would wade into crowds to interact with admirers.

"I would never say this to her, but when men are in line (at photo shoots), I tell them to keep your hands up high," Dent said about security measures after the Mueller incident.

Following Dent on the stand was Mueller's longtime friend and former KYGO co-host, Ryan Kliesch. He repeatedly said "no" when asked by McFarland if he had ever seen Mueller disrespect, demean, condescend or act inappropriately toward women.

Swift, who is known for baring her soul and her grudges in her music, gave an unflinching account of the incident when she took the witness stand on Thursday.

In unvarnished language that occasionally drew titters in the courtroom, even from some jurors, Swift said she was subjected to a "very long", "intentional" and "horrifying" grope by Mueller as they posed for the photo with his girlfriend, and that he appeared to be drunk at the time.

"Your client grabbed my ass," she told McFarland. "He stayed latched onto my bare ass cheek. I felt him grab onto my ass cheek under my skirt."

Mueller initiated the litigation, claiming Swift fabricated the story and pressured KYGO to fire him. Swift then countersued for assault and battery, asking for symbolic damages of $1.

The former disc jockey is seeking lost earnings and to clear his name, telling the court this week it was humiliating to be accused of "something so despicable."

With the exception of Mueller, the trial's first witness, almost every individual subsequently put on the stand by McFarland has delivered testimony supporting Swift's case.

Mueller testified on Tuesday that he may have made innocent contact with Swift, but denied any inappropriate behaviour. Asked if he grabbed her backside, he replied: "No, I did not."

Swift's account was backed by testimony from others including her photographer, Stephanie Simbeck, who on Thursday recalled seeing Mueller "put his hand on (Swift's) butt."

In emotional testimony on Wednesday, Swift's mother, Andrea, pointed at Mueller from the witness stand, saying, "He sexually assaulted my daughter, right there, that guy."

(Reporting by Keith Coffman and Jann Tracey; Writing by Steve Gorman and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Paul Tait and Jonathan Oatis)

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