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Saturday 21 July 2018

Stormy Daniels arrest an error, say police

Police in Ohio have dropped charges against the porn actress who was arrested after a performance at a strip club.

Charges against Stormy Daniels have been dropped (Franklin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
Charges against Stormy Daniels have been dropped (Franklin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press

Prosecutors have dropped charges against porn actress Stormy Daniels hours after she was arrested at a strip club.

She was accused of illegally rubbing undercover police officers’ faces against her bare breasts during a performance in Ohio.

Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said she was “set up” in a Columbus police sting operation, calling it an “absurd use of law enforcement resources”. Police said they routinely conduct such undercover operations.

The 39-year-old adult film star, who claims to have had sex with Donald Trump before he became US president, was charged with three misdemeanours, each punishable by up to six months in jail and a 1,000 US dollar fine upon conviction. She was released on 6,000 dollar bail on Thursday morning.

By early afternoon, prosecutors said they were dropping the case because Ohio’s law against physical contact between strippers and customers applies only to someone who “regularly” performs at a club. In Ms Daniels’ case, it was her first appearance at Sirens in Columbus.

Columbus police chief Kim Jacobs said “one element of the law was missed in error”.

“A mistake was made, and I accept full responsibility,” she said.

Officers were well within their area of responsibility when making the arrests, she added. But she said the officers’ motivations will be reviewed internally.

She said unsubstantiated allegations about their motivations were circulating on social media.

Mr Avenatti called for an investigation into the arrest, saying some of the officers had what appeared to be “very Pro-Trump” social media pages.

He tweeted screenshots from what he claimed was the Facebook page of one officer with a pseudonym and asked people to help confirm it.

Ms Daniels considered reappearing at Sirens but later opted for a different club, Vanity Gentlemen’s Club. She performed there for about 20 minutes early on Friday, baring her breasts but not physically interacting with any patrons. A host had announced: “No phones, no photography, no touching!”

About 100 patrons were in the club and threw bank notes on her as she performed, partly covering the stage.

Police said Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, smacked the faces of two female officers and one male officer with her bare breasts during the Wednesday night show.

Officers knocked on the door of her tour bus after the performance and took her into custody in an arrest that Mr Avenatti said left her “traumatized and rattled”.

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Stormy Daniels is led into jail in Columbus, Ohio (WBNS via AP)

Police said Ms Daniels’ arrest was part of a long-term human trafficking investigation of adult clubs. They said they have made numerous arrests under the no-touching law.

The police department “engages in these operations routinely,” spokesman Sergeant Dean Worthington said.

Franklin County Municipal Court records show 23 similar cases this year, including the charges against Ms Daniels, 14 last year and six the year before.

Ms Daniels later performed at a second strip club in Ohio, a day after her arrest.

She took to the stage for about 20 minutes at Vanity Gentlemen’s Club in Columbus, baring her breasts but not physically interacting with any patrons.

A host had warned several times beforehand there would be no touching.

Press Association

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