Charges were dropped Thursday against porn actress Stormy Daniels, just hours after she was arrested while performing at an Ohio strip club and charged with letting patrons touch her in an apparent violation of state law.
Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said she was set up in a Columbus police sting operation, something police deny.
Daniels has said she had sex with U.S. President Donald Trump in 2006, when he was married, which Trump has denied. She’s suing Trump and his former longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and seeking to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election.
in the case of the Ohio club incident, charging documents said Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was arrested for touching a patron at a “sexually oriented” business, contrary to the Community Defence Act.
The documents said Daniels, who was semi-nude, allegedly touched some of the patrons’ breasts and allowed them to touch her. She allegedly performed the same act with several officers who approached the stage and forced one officer’s head into her bare chest.
She was released on bail before 6 a.m. Thursday. Daniels posted $6,000 US.
The charges relate to the law prohibiting dancers from touching customers and customers from touching dancers — excluding immediate family members. The arrest followed a performance Wednesday night at Sirens, a strip club in Columbus.
Daniels’s lawyer told The Associated Press that some patrons touched Daniels in a “non-sexual” way during her performance.
He told MSNBC later Thursday that police had prepared a sting operation with multiple officers. He said female undercover officers asked Daniels if they could place their face between her breasts.
“It was an absurd use of law enforcement resources,” Avenatti said.
The three counts against Daniels were first-degree misdemeanours. A maximum penalty for one count could result in six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
On Thursday afternoon, city prosecutors dropped the charges, saying the Ohio illegal touching law can’t be enforced because Daniels has only appeared once at the Columbus club.
Ongoing litigation with the president
The law refers to someone “who regularly appears nude or seminude” at a club. Avenatti successfully argued Daniels “has not appeared consistently and repeatedly at Sirens,” according to prosecutors.
Police said two other women were arrested along with Daniels. Prosecutors are also checking whether those women will be prosecuted, said city attorney Zach Klein.
Columbus police said Thursday that the arrest of Daniels was part of a long-term human trafficking investigation of illegal activity at city adult clubs. They said they’ve made numerous arrests under the law regarding illegal sexually oriented activity in a sexually oriented business, but did not immediately provide a number.
I am pleased to report that the charges against my client <a href=”https://twitter.com/StormyDaniels?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@stormydaniels</a> have been dismissed in their entirety (below motion was just granted). I want to thank Joe Gibson & his colleagues at the prosecutors ofc for their professionalism starting with our first call early this am. <a href=”https://t.co/xHPSWsyqM2″>pic.twitter.com/xHPSWsyqM2</a>
The police department “engages in these operations routinely,” said Sgt. Dean Worthington, a spokesperson.
Daniels’s whereabouts were unclear. Her lawyer said earlier said she had planned to leave the state Thursday.
Avenatti posted on Twitter a statement by Daniels that said she apologized to fans in Columbus, but would not perform her previously scheduled Thursday night show.
A person who answered the phone at the strip club declined to comment.