Content warning: The following posts contains depictions of physical & sexual violence.
In Taylor Swift’s new documentary, Miss Americana, the pop star is giving inquiring viewers a peek behind the veil of her life. The Netflix film, which is now available to stream, first played at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival on January 23 and has garnered a wide range of reviews so far. Directed by feminist filmmaker Lana Wilson, Miss Americana follows Swift through unique coming-of-age experiences in the spotlight, and details some of the more challenging moments of her career.
“We talked about doing a documentary that felt raw and intimate and complex and messy,” Wilson told Vox. “She wanted to keep making work and going out into the world, but she wanted to do it in a way where she wasn’t caring as much about getting everyone’s approval and getting everyone to like her.”
One of those complexities includes Swifts 2017 lawsuit against DJ David Mueller, who Swift accused of groping her before her Denver concert in 2013. In the film, viewers learn about Swift sexual assault case that started almost seven years ago and lasted for over four years of her life.
Amid those years, Swift’s career saw a lot of ebbs and flows: Miss Americana shows her openness about yearning for public validation, dealing with negative body image, and being politically vocal. While the candid and messy parts of her life are put on display, certain things — like her very public battle with Scooter Braun over her masters — are not mentioned. Still, the case of Swift and Mueller is a major jumping off point in what seems to give her strength to make larger decisions in the future. Swift recants the harsh messaging she received throughout the court case in Miss Americana. “Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you react quicker? Why didn’t you stand further away from him?” she said. “I was so angry. I was angry that I had to be there, I was angry that this happens to women, I was angry that all the details had been twisted.”
The prevailing message of Miss Americana is that an industry built a pop star who could please everyone, but what does that mean for the pop star herself? As we learn in the film, the only way for Swift to become her own person is to burn that image down and create something entirely new, and that is what she did when she decided to sue David Mueller. Ahead, we’ve detailed the timeline of Swift and Mueller’s case, breaking down the alleged assault and the lawsuit’s outcome from start to finish.
June 2, 2013: Mueller gropes Swift
Taylor Swift had a concert in Denver at the Pepsi Center on her Red world tour. During a meet and greet before the concert, David Mueller groped Swift as they were posing for a photo. According to Swift, while posing for a photo, Mueller reached under her skirt to grope his hand on an intimate part of her body. Immediately following the photo, Swift’s security team was informed of what happened and confronted Mueller.
June 4, 2013: Mueller loses his job
A member of Swift’s security team informed Mueller’s employer, KYGO radio station, of the incident at her concert. Mueller was banned for life from Taylor Swift concerts and on June 4, he is fired from KYGO radio station.
September 10, 2015: Mueller accuses Swift of defamation
Three months later, Mueller filed a lawsuit against Swift in the U.S. District Court in Denver for defamation. The lawsuit claimed that “Mueller lost his job and other prospective business opportunities because of the allegations.” The lawsuit sought $3 million in damages from Taylor Swift. Swift said in Miss Americana that at the time, Mueller’s story and lawsuit was full of lies. “There were seven people who saw him do this, and we have a photo of it happening,” she states.
October 28, 2015: Swift sues Mueller back
Swift files a federal counterclaim against Mueller for assault and battery, specifically for “reaching under her skirt and groping her” before her 2013 Denver concert. The lawsuit is for a symbolic $1, and the counterclaim said that Mueller waited too long to deny that he groped Swift after the original incident was reported. The lawsuit also detailed that the assault occurred without Swift’s permission and against her will. According to Swift’s filing, the singer said she “knows exactly who committed the assault — it was Mueller.”
August 7, 2017: Jury selection begins
Taylor Swift appears in court while jurors are questioned. Judge William J. Martinez, Swift’s lawyers, and Mueller’s lawyers questioned 60 potential jurors over the course of four hours. No jurors were officially selected on that Monday, but many were dismissed. Ultimately, eight jurors (six women and two men) were selected and would decide the outcome of both opposing lawsuits through each defendant’s testimony.
August 10, 2017: Swift and Mueller both testify
Swift testifies against Mueller saying the encounter was “despicable and horrifying and shocking.” Over the course of her one-hour testimony, Swift said that Mueller reached his hand under her skirt and “stayed attached to my bare asscheek as I lurched away from him.”
Earlier in the day, Mueller also testified about the alleged sexual assault. He described the photo opportunity as “weird and awkward.” Mueller denied touching Swift’s buttocks and said that the experience following this accusation was “humiliating” for him. “It cost me my career, the thing I love to do, my passion,” Mueller testified.
But, when Swift was asked about the defamation charges that caused Mueller’s “humiliation, she said, “I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions, not mine.”
August 11, 2017: Mueller’s lawsuit against Swift is dismissed
Judge Martinez dismissed Mueller’s defamation lawsuit against Swift, saying she “did not act inappropriately” in contacting KYGO radio to inform them of the incident. The judge did not make a ruling on Swift’s lawsuit against Mueller to determine whether or not he would be charged with touching her buttocks.
August 14, 2017: Mueller is found guilty
Jurors ruled that Mueller was guilty in Swift’s assault and battery lawsuit against him. Swift was awarded a requested sum of $1 and pledged to donate “an unspecified amount” to organizations aimed at helping sexual assault victims. “You don’t feel any sense of victory when you win, because the process is so dehumanizing,” Swift said in Miss Americana. “This is with seven witnesses and a photo. What happens when you get raped and it’s your word against his?”
2018 – Present: Where is David Mueller?
In 2018, Mueller reportedly took on a new DJ name in Denver: Stonewall Jackson. Mueller still maintains that Swift “ruined” his life and takes no responsibility in what happened. Beyond his radio resurgence, it seems Mueller is mostly off-the-grid.
At the end of Miss Americana, Swift is seen one year after the ruling speaking to a sold-out stadium on her Reputation album tour. “I think about all the people who weren’t believed, or the people who are afraid to speak up because they think they won’t be believed,” she said. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry to anyone who ever wasn’t believed. I don’t know what turn my life would have taken if people didn’t believe me.”
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