Daniels has been at the center of media attention for months after saying she had an affair with President Donald Trump in 2006, a year after Trump married his current wife, Melania.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Charges have been dropped against porn actress Stormy Daniels after she was arrested in Columbus during her performance Wednesday night at a Northeast Side strip club.
While Daniels, 39, was performing at strip club Sirens, she touched several patrons and police officers, which may be a violation of Ohio’s Community Defense Act, which prohibits patrons from touching a nude or semi-nude dancer, or their clothing, in a club, anywhere on the premises or the parking lot.
Ohio law states, “No employee who regularly appears nude or seminude on the premises of a sexually oriented business, while on the premises of that sexually oriented business and while nude or seminude, shall knowingly touch a patron who is not a member of the employee’s immediate family or another employee who is not a member of the employee’s immediate family.”
“My office has reviewed the charges filed by the Columbus Division of Police, 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,” City Attorney Zach Klein said in a news release. “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.”
“In this case, there has been no evidence provided to the state that defendant appears or has appeared regularly at Sirens,” according to court documents. Joseph Gibson, a deputy prosecutor at the city attorney’s office, signed off on the motion to dismiss.
Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted that the touching was in a “non-sexual” way.
Daniels is scheduled to appear at Sirens again tonight. Avenatti tweeted Thursday afternoon, “She will return to the scene of the ‘no crime’ tonight in Columbus, Ohio as scheduled. She never ceases to impress!”
Klein told the Dispatch that his office would look at the charges filed against two other women to “make sure all of the facts meet the elements of the crime.”
“For every case that is brought before the city attorney’s office, a decision has to be made that facts can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime existed. Whether it’s these instances or other instances, that’s the standard we have to apply when prosecuting a case. This is no different,” Klein said.
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther through a spokeswoman expressed dismay that the arrest was taking up so much attention.
“It’s disappointing that the focus was on last night’s arrest. CPD does so much to keep neighborhoods safe. That includes our effort citing prostitution, solicitation, human trafficking and exploitation of women,” said Robin Davis, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
At least four Columbus police officers attended Daniels’ performance at Sirens, and an affidavit filed in Franklin County Municipal Court says Daniels touched three of the officers — both men and women — during her performance.
“We knew there was going to be a lot of people there,” said Denise Alex-Bouzounis, a spokeswoman for Columbus police, who noted that there were vice police officers there in case there were issues and to continue an ongoing investigation. She said the goal of officers was not to arrest anyone.
“No one was looking to make any arrests. A perfect scenario would be no arrests,” she said.
But that changed around 11:30 p.m., when the officers watched Daniels take the stage and take her top off, according to an affidavit.
Nearly all of the club’s customers approached the stage and started throwing dollars bills at the performer, the affidavit said. Daniels then forced the faces of several customers into her chest and “smacked” the sides of their heads with her breasts. She touched the breasts of several female customers.
Three undercover vice officers approached the stage after watching Daniels make contact with the customers, and the performer treated them in a similar manner, forcing their faces into her chest and touching the breasts and buttocks of a female officer, according to the affidavit.
Officers arrested Daniels without incident. Two other women, Brittany Walters, 20, of Pickerington, and Miranda “Panda” Glass, 26, of Marion, were issued summons to appear in court and not taken into custody at the club, according to records. They face charges of illegal sexually oriented activity in a sexually oriented business.
Alex-Bouzounis said Daniels was arrested and booked because she is not a local resident. Glass and Walters are scheduled to appear in court July 23, according to records.
Someone who works for Daniels contacted Columbus police about a month ago requesting that Columbus officers work special duty for her appearance at the club. Police told Daniels’ staff member that officers don’t provide security at strip clubs citing division policy, Alex-Bouzounis said. On the division’s website, it states: “We also reserve the right to decline job requests that may be deemed inappropriate or unsafe for police officers.”
Earlier this week, Alex-Bouzounis said a staff member of Daniels’ called police again asking if officers can bend the rules to provide security.
“We don’t bend the rules for anyone,” Alex-Bouzounis said.
Columbus police also issued the following statement: “Since last fall, Columbus police were made aware of illegal activity through various adult entertainment clubs throughout the city. Columbus police have made numerous arrests utilizing this law. The division engages in these operations routinely with no effect on other calls for service.”
A released statement stated the arrests were part of a “long-term investigation into allegations of human trafficking, prostitution, along with other vice related violations.” Alex-Bouzounis did not comment on the what started the investigation or when it was initiated by vice officers at Sirens.
Franklin County Municipal Court records show that so far in 2018, 25 people have been charged under the illegal touching law. That’s up from 16 in 2017 and seven in 2016.
Most of the reports involve a strip club employee touching an undercover police officer, or an undercover police officer witnessing illegal touching in a club, court records show. In some cases, multiple employees were arrested on a single night.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was taken to the Franklin County jail early Thursday, where she was charged with three misdemeanor counts of a sexually oriented-business employee touching a patron, according to court and jail records. She posted $6,000 bond plus fees and was released.
Daniels had been scheduled to perform on Wednesday and Thursday nights at Sirens as part of a nationwide tour. On Monday night, she was performing at a club in Washington, D.C.
“This was a complete set-up,” Avenatti told The Associated Press. “It’s absurd that law enforcement resources are being spent to conduct a sting operation related to customers touching performers in a strip club in a non-sexual manner.”
Daniels has been at the center of media attention for months after saying she had an affair with President Donald Trump in 2006, a year after Trump married his current wife, Melania. Trump has denied the affair.
Daniels is suing Trump and his former longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and seeking to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement that she signed days before the 2016 presidential election.
Patrick Cooley is a reporter for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Reporters Rick Rouan and Beth Burger contributed to this report.