Charges dismissed against Stormy Daniels for touching patrons - and police - at Ohio strip club
Prosecutors in Ohio have dismissed charges against adult-film actress Stormy Daniels after she was accused of "fondling" patrons and police during a Wednesday-night performance at a strip club in Columbus.
Police had charged Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, with three misdemeanor counts of touching a patron at a "sexually oriented" business in violation of an Ohio strip club law, according to online court records. According to a police report, authorities accused her of touching "a specified anatomical area" of individuals who were present at the performance, including police officers.
Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said Thursday morning on MSNBC that police had set up a "sting operation" at Sirens strip club, where Daniels was performing.
During the show, Avenatti said, undercover police officers asked Daniels for permission to place their faces between her breasts, though the attorney declined to release further details about the performance.
Avenatti told The Washington Post that undercover officers later approached Daniels and told her she would be arrested. He said his client was accused of allowing a patron to touch her while onstage in a "nonsexual manner."
On Thursday afternoon, Avenatti announced on Twitter that prosecutors had dropped the charges against his client. Prosecutors said they did not have probable cause to pursue the case, according to court documents posted by the attorney.
"I am pleased to report that the charges against my client @stormydaniels have been dismissed in their entirety," the attorney wrote on Twitter.
According to the police report, vice officers reported to the strip club Wednesday night to investigate complaints about alleged drug activity and prostitution.
During Daniels's 11:30 p.m. performance, the report states, people in the audience began throwing dollar bills at Daniels. While topless and wearing a G-string, she allegedly began "forcing the faces of the patrons into her chest and using her bare breasts to smack the patrons." She is also accused of fondling the breasts of women in the audience, according to the report.
Two police detectives and an officer in the club noticed what Daniels was doing and approached the stage. As she performed in front of a female detective, the report states, Daniels leaned over, grabbed the detective's head and "began smacking her face with her bare breasts and holding her face between her breasts against her chest."
She allegedly performed the same acts on a male detective and a third officer, according to the report, and began "fondling" that officer's buttock and breasts.
Another police detective, who was standing near the bar area, saw it all happen, according to the police report. That detective then left the club to request help from patrol in arresting Daniels and two others, who were identified in the report as a dancer and a server.
An Ohio strip club law prohibits all patrons from touching a nude or seminude dancer unless the patrons are members of the dancer's immediate family.
Court records show Daniels posted $6,054 in bail and was released. She was scheduled to be arraigned in Franklin County Municipal Court on Friday morning, according to court records. Avenatti, her attorney, told MSNBC on Thursday morning Daniels's counsel would enter a not-guilty plea to the three misdemeanor charges, so Daniels would not need to appear in court. He said she would probably leave the state later in the day.
Avenatti told The Post the arrest was a politically motivated "sting operation." He said his client was "performing the same performance that she has conducted at over a hundred strip clubs around the country."
"This is ridiculous that law enforcement resources were used to conduct this sting operation," he said. "There has to be a better purpose for such resources."
Avenatti told MSNBC he has been in touch with the prosecutors, whom he described as "incredibly professional." He said he believes they are "going to be reasonable in how they approach this."
"We are highly confident that in the unlikely event that the district attorney proceeds with charges that she will be found not guilty," Avenatti told The Post.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said in a statement to The Post that prosecutors looked at the charges against Daniels and "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. We'll do the same inquiry for the other defendants involved, as well. My office was not involved in this sting operation, so any additional questions about it must be directed to the Columbus Division of Police. The charges have been dismissed."
A Columbus police spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the arrest. Reached by The Post early Thursday, a representative for Sirens strip club declined to comment.
Avenatti, Daniels' awyer, took to Twitter early Thursday, calling the arrest "a setup & politically motivated."
"It reeks of desperation," he tweeted. "We will fight all bogus charges."
The Ohio strip club law prohibiting the touching of dancers, the Community Defense Act, was proposed by a Cincinnati-based conservative religious organization and approved in 2007. But according to a Columbus Dispatch article in September 2017, the law has rarely been used since then. A spokesman for the Franklin County sheriff's office could find no instances in which the 2007 law had been used, he told the newspaper.
Daniels planned to be in Columbus on Wednesday and Thursday as part of a nationwide tour, Avenatti said. The club, Sirens, advertised Daniel's appearance on Twitter ahead of Wednesday night's performance.
"As a result of what happened last night, I will unfortunately be unable to go forward with tonight's scheduled performance," Daniels said in a statement through Avenatti on Twitter. "I deeply apologize to my fans in Columbus."
Earlier this week, Daniels performed in Washington, D.C., at the Cloakroom, minutes before President Donald Trump announced his Supreme Court nomination.
Daniels has been embroiled in a legal controversy with Trump over their alleged 2006 encounter, which he has repeatedly denied. She is suing Trump and his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to void a hush agreement she says she signed during the 2016 presidential campaign.
After denying knowledge of the payment, Trump admitted in May his longtime lawyer, Cohen, was reimbursed through a monthly retainer for a $130,000 payment made to Daniels in 2016 to stop what Trump called "false and extortionist accusations" about a decade-old affair.
This story was written by Samantha Schmidt and Lindsey Bever, both are reporters for The Washington Post.