COLUMBUS, Ohio – Prosecutors on Thursday dropped charges against porn star Stormy Daniels just hours after she was arrested and accused of illegally rubbing undercover police officers’ faces against her bare breasts during a performance at a strip club.
Her attorney 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 president, was charged with three misdemeanours, each punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine upon conviction. She was released on $6,000 bail around daybreak Thursday.
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 Daniels’ case, it was her first appearance at Sirens in Columbus.
A person who answered the phone at Sirens declined to comment.
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. Without providing details, she said unsubstantiated allegations about their motivations were circulating on social media.
Daniels’ lawyer called for an investigation into the arrest, saying some of the officers had what appeared to be “very Pro-Trump” social media pages. The lawyer, Michael Avenatti, tweeted screenshots from what he claimed was the Facebook page of one officer with a pseudonym and asked people to help confirm it.
Daniels considered reappearing at Sirens but later opted for a different club, Vanity Gentlemen’s Club. She performed there for about 20 minutes early 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 dollar bills on her as she performed, partly covering the stage.
Police said 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 Avenatti said left her “traumatized and rattled.”
She was booked under a 10-year-old state law known as the Community Defence Act, which says dancers at “sexually oriented” businesses are prohibited from touching customers and vice versa.
Police said two other dancers were arrested along with Daniels. Prosecutors will decide whether to pursue charges against those women.
Police said 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 but did not immediately provide a number.
The police department “engages in these operations routinely,” spokesman Sgt. Dean Worthington said.
Franklin County Municipal Court records show 23 similar cases this year, including the charges against Daniels, 14 last year and six the year before.
Daniels has said she had sex with Trump in 2006, when he was married. Trump has denied it. Before the election, she was paid $130,000 to stay silent in a deal handled by Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen. She is suing to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement.
Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles, Catherine Lucey in Washington, Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati and Bob Lentz in Philadelphia contributed to this report.