Sunday, July 15, 2018
Nation & World

Charges Dropped Against Stormy Daniels in Strip Club Arrest

Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film actress who said she had an affair with Donald Trump before he became president, was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors at a strip club in Columbus, Ohio, her lawyer said Thursday.

Prosecutors later dismissed the charges, according to a motion posted on Twitter by Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti. The motion by prosecutors said that the law under which Clifford was arrested applies to people who "regularly" appear nude or seminude at a particular establishment, but that Clifford had not appeared at the club consistently.

Clifford, who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, had been scheduled to appear at Sirens Gentlemen’s Club in northeastern Columbus on Wednesday and Thursday, according to its website. The Thursday appearance was canceled after the arrest.

She was charged with three counts of illegal sexually oriented activity, a misdemeanor, the arrest report says. She was released from the Jackson Pike jail in Columbus on Thursday after posting $6,054 cash bail.

The charges stemmed "from an allegation that while performing, she engaged in touching with customers who turned out to be undercover vice officers," Avenatti said in a telephone interview.

Police officers at the club said in an affidavit that while dancing topless, Clifford pressed patrons’ faces into her chest and fondled the breasts of some women in the audience. She performed similar acts on three officers and grabbed one by the buttocks, the affidavit said.

"So there are undercover vice officers that came to the club for the purpose of trying to get her to touch them so that they could then arrest her, which is ludicrous," Avenatti said.

"My understanding is that a number of undercover officers were female, which was not unusual to my client because a huge number of women are turning out to see her shows," he said. "And a couple of officers asked her to allow them to place their face in between her breasts."

"I am not going to comment on what transpired after that," he added. "I think that this is one of the poorest uses of law enforcement resources I believe I have ever heard of in my lifetime."

Court records show at least two other people ? a dancer and a server at the club ? were also arrested with Clifford and charged with one count each of the same misdemeanor.

Asked about the arrest, a man who answered the phone at Sirens on Thursday morning declined to comment or provide his name. The Columbus Police Department could not be reached.

Since gaining nationwide prominence for her accusation against Trump ? and the $130,000 payment she received to originally keep quiet ? Clifford has drawn crowds at strip clubs across the country, including in Greenville, South Carolina; Salem, Oregon; and Des Moines, Iowa. They were mostly curiosities until her trip to Columbus.

Avenatti, an outspoken lawyer who has become a sharp critic of Trump, said he saw political machinations behind the arrest.

"This was a setup & politically motivated," Avenatti said on Twitter. "It reeks of desperation. We will fight all bogus charges."

In Ohio, it is illegal for an employee who is "nude or seminude" at a sexually oriented business to be touched by a patron or to touch a patron, with the exception of an immediate family member. Depending on what body part is touched, the charge can be a first- or fourth-degree misdemeanor.

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