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Jury Begins Deliberations In Taylor Swift Groping Trial


For the last week, one of the biggest stars in pop music has been in court. A radio DJ sued Taylor Swift, her mother and her manager for falsely accusing him of assault and getting him fired from his job. Swift is countersuing for a dollar, saying the DJ put his hand up her skirt and groped her during a photo op. The case has gotten attention from advocates for survivors of sexual assault who are praising Swift's frank and unapologetic stand - and a language warning for listeners here as we recount some of this testimony.

Leila Fadel is at the court now. She joins us from Denver. And this case started last week, Leila. Remind us what's happened so far.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Well, today is the last day of this case. It began last week. David Mueller, the radio disc jockey here in Denver, is suing Swift, her mother and her manager for radio saying that they got him fired over a false accusation. And Swift, as you mentioned, is countersuing. But she has now been dropped from that case that David Mueller is suing for. And the judge said, quote, "there is insufficient evidence that she acted improperly when she reported an assault that she truly believed happened." But that doesn't mean the case is over.

Today her mother, Andrea Swift, and manager, Frank Bell, are still being sued for about $3 million. And of course there is the countersuit for the $1. And that dollar her lawyer mentioned today in his closing statement, saying, quote, "it's a single, symbolic dollar, the value of which is immeasurable to all women in this situation."

CORNISH: I want to talk more about that idea of symbolism because as I said, anti-sexual assault advocates have been praising her testimony. What is it about what she had to say? Why did it resonate?

FADEL: Yeah. She's been getting a lot of praise over her cross-examination. And it got their attention because she was consistent. She was assertive, and she really refused to be shamed, they say, on that stand. And so I'll just give you a few examples of things she said when Mueller's lawyer was questioning her.

So he mentioned that maybe it was an unintentional touch in another place. And she said, he didn't touch my rib. He did not touch my hand. He touched my bare ass. In another instance, Mueller's lawyer asked why she wasn't critical of her bodyguard for not keeping Mueller away from her. And her answer was, I'm critical of your client for sticking his hand under my skirt. So her zingers just kept going.

And in fact, Glamour magazine compiled a list of her, quote, "top ten most powerful statements." And the reason this is seen as so incredible is because women are consistently shamed into keeping quiet. And according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, about two-thirds of women never report sexual assaults to the police.

CORNISH: And we should note that in this case of this alleged assault, it also was not reported to police.

FADEL: That's right. If this indeed happened, a 51-year-old man grabbed a 23-year-old young woman's behind in 2013, and it was kept quiet. He was quietly fired. During Swift's mother's testimony, she talked about wanting to vomit and cry at the same time when she found out and how she wanted to keep it quiet to protect her daughter and to stop her from having to relive the assault.

Today, both lawyers made closing statements, Mueller's lawyers saying he did not grope Swift, that he is the victim of a false accusation. And the lawyer asked, why would he do this after introducing himself, saying who he was employed by and taking a picture with her? Meanwhile, Swift's lawyer said that this case is about sending a message that no means no. Rich or poor, women shouldn't be shamed into silence, and aggressors should not be monetarily rewarded. And he said that Swift's story is backed up by several witnesses that testified last week, including her bodyguard and the photographer. The jury has begun deliberations, and we may hear news on the outcome as early as later today.

CORNISH: That's Leila Fadel from Denver. Thanks so much, Leila.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.