Stormy Daniels sues Columbus, Ohio, police over arrest at strip club
(CNN) — Stormy Daniels is suing several members of the Columbus, Ohio, police department’s vice unit for civil rights violations over her arrest last year at a strip club in the city.
Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing for false arrest, malicious prosecution, conspiracy to violate the Fourth and 14th amendments and two accusations of abuse of process violating Ohio law. She’s asking for more than $1 million in compensatory damages, more than $1 million in punitive damages and costs and fees associated with the case.
She is accusing the vice officers of targeting her in a July operation because they were avowed supporters of President Donald Trump and “believed that Ms. Clifford was damaging President Trump and … entered into a conspiracy to arrest her” in retaliation for embarrassing the President, according to a lawsuit filed Monday. Police said at the time that Daniels was arrested for allegedly violating a no-touch law during her striptease performance at the Sirens Strip Club in Columbus.
Three undercover police officers reported touching or being touched by Daniels.
In the months before the arrest, Daniels had been speaking out about her alleged sexual relationship with Trump in 2006, and the $130,000 in hush money she had been paid days before the 2016 presidential election through a shell company set up by then-candidate Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen.
In her lawsuit against the Columbus officers who arrested her, she mentions pro-Trump Facebook posts by one of them. The posts were subsequently taken down. She also mentions emails sent by other officers, which Daniels’ attorney argues shows she was targeted.
“We look forward to exposing the facts relating to the outrageous conduct of these rogue officers, who abused their power and the badge to further a political agenda against Stormy,” Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney, told CNN.
Daniels named four officers in her federal lawsuit: Shana Keckley, Whitney Lancaster, Mary Praither and Steven Rosser, all of whom were involved in arresting her in July 2018 for allegedly violating the no-touching law.
In police reports, several officers say they touched Daniels in the strip club. Keckley wrote Daniels “did put her breast … in detectives (sic) face and pushed her breast, squeezing Det. Keckley (sic) face in-between her breasts.”
But instead of arresting Daniels for allegedly violating the touching laws after that first instance, two other officers also touched her. Under an Ohio law passed in 2007, an employee who regularly appears nude or seminude at a sexually oriented business is prohibited from touching patrons, except for family members. Social media posts detailed in Monday’s lawsuit indicated that the investigators involved in the operation knew Daniels was not from the area and was on a nationwide tour of strip clubs.
One of them was Lancaster, according to the suit and Lancaster’s police report. Lancaster’s report said Daniels “did put her breasts, squeezing the detective’s face in between her breasts.”
Praither was the other police department member who touched Daniels, according to the suit and Praither’s own police report. Praither wrote Daniels “did put both hands on officers (sic) buttocks, both hands on officers (sic) breast, then put her breasts in officers (sic) face.”
“We’ve been made aware of the lawsuit filed by Stephanie Clifford. The Columbus Division of Police Internal Affairs Bureau continues its investigation therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment on this matter at this time,” Columbus Division of Police Spokesperson Denise Alex-Bouzounis told CNN.
After being arrested and detained for 12 hours, Daniels posted $6,054 bail and was released. The charges were dropped because the law did not apply to Daniels as she was a guest performer and did not regularly appear at the club, the Columbus city attorney said.
“I’ve determined that these crimes were not committed, based on the fact that Ms. Clifford has not made regular appearances at this establishment as required under the law,” Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said in a statement at the time.
Columbus Chief of Police Kim Jacobs called the arrest a “mistake” in a July statement.
“Vice personnel working last night believed they had probable cause that the state law regulating sexually-oriented businesses was violated; however, one element of the law was missed in error and charges were subsequently dismissed,” Jacobs said in a statement at the time, which was included in Monday’s filing.