Stormy Daniels’ arrest? That was some setup

(CNN) — Charges against adult film actress Stormy Daniels for allegedly touching three undercover detectives while performing at an Ohio strip club were dismissed Thursday, her attorney said.

Daniels, who gained notoriety after suing President Donald Trump following an alleged affair, had faced three misdemeanor counts of illegally touching a patron, court records show.

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, posted a $6,054 bail and was released Thursday morning, and was due to be arraigned Friday, records show.

Under an Ohio law passed in 2007, an employee who regularly appears nude or seminude at a sexually oriented business is prohibited from touching patrons, except for family members.

Because Daniels does not regularly appear at the club, the charges were dismissed, according to court documents.

“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,” Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said in a statement after reviewing the case.

Daniels had planned to plead not guilty to the three misdemeanor charges, her attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted.

The arrest of Daniels and two others was part of a “long-term investigation into allegations of human trafficking, prostitution, & other vice related violations,” Columbus police said in a statement.

Documents accuse her of fondling patrons

In a probable cause affidavit obtained by CNN affiliate WSYX, detectives who were at the Sirens Gentlemen’s Club said they observed Daniels remove her top and force patrons’ faces into her chest.

“The officers also observed Ms. Clifford fondling the breasts of female patrons,” Franklin County Municipal Court records show.

When officers witnessed those activities, three detectives approached the stage. Daniels allegedly made her way toward two detectives, leaned over and grabbed their faces. She shoved each of their faces between her breasts, court documents said.

She fondled a third officer’s buttocks and breasts, according to the documents, and then forced the officer’s head between her breasts and smacked the officer’s face with her breasts.

Daniels, Miranda Panda of Marion, Ohio, and Brittany Walters of Pickerington, Ohio, were each charged in the undercover operation. After the case was dismissed against Daniels, the city attorney said he was also looking into the charges against the other two defendants.

The Sirens Gentlemen’s Club had posted on its website that Daniels was scheduled to perform there Wednesday and Thursday. A person who answered the phone at the club declined to comment.

‘It reeks of desperation,’ Avenatti says

Earlier, Avenatti criticized the charges as “bogus.”

“She was arrested for allegedly allowing a customer to touch her while on stage in a nonsexual manner! Are you kidding me?” Avenatti tweeted. “They are devoting law enforcement resources to sting operations for this? There has to be higher priorities.”

Avenatti said Daniels was arrested while “performing the same act she has performed across the nation at nearly a hundred strip clubs.”

“This was a setup & politically motivated. It reeks of desperation,” his tweet said. “We will fight all bogus charges.”

Columbus police said they have made numerous arrests based on this law since last fall when authorities “were made aware” of illegal activity at adult entertainment clubs in the city.

Despite the arrest, Daniels said she plans to perform at Sirens again on Thursday night. She added that the tips from her performance will go toward the legal fees of the two other performers who were charged in the undercover sting.

Daniels made headlines worldwide over revelations of an alleged affair with Trump in 2006 — and for the $130,000 she said she received from his attorney in 2016 in exchange for her silence. The White House has said Trump denies an affair happened.

She is suing Trump and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to be released from a nondisclosure agreement that she says she signed days before the 2016 presidential election to prevent her from publicly discussing the alleged affair.

Avenatti alleges the payment was a violation of campaign finance law and was designed to suppress speech. Trump has said he personally reimbursed Cohen for that payment.

Rarely used 2007 law

Layken Curry, a dancer at Sirens Gentleman’s Club, said dancers are not allowed to have contact with the customers and must maintain a one-arm distance from them. If that space is violated by customers, they are generally escorted out. If a dancer violates it, management usually takes care of the matter, she said.

Curry said she has never seen anyone get arrested in the 2½ years she has worked at Sirens, nor has she had any experience with the law while on the job.

“I am all for following the rules and going by the book, no touching, no this, no that, but also at the same time, in my opinion, I feel like it was completely harmless,” Curry said. “She was putting on a show. The people paid money to see her. Why not?”


(CNN) — America’s favorite porn star, Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels), was arrested early Thursday for doing her job at a strip club in Ohio. Undercover police officers apprehended Clifford at Sirens Gentlemen’s Club, citing three misdemeanor offenses involving illegally touching patrons during her performance, in violation of Ohio state law. After posting $6,054 in bail, she was released, and the charges have since been dropped.

One can imagine — vaguely — just how the situation played out.

While Clifford may be public enemy No. 1 in some political circles for unabashedly wanting to tell her story about her alleged consensual affair with Donald Trump in 2006 (as she detailed in a 2011 interview with In Touch), she’s hardly the kind of dangerous criminal we should be pouring our investigative and prosecutorial resources into apprehending.

Apparently, Ohio state law enforcement officials deemed it necessary to devote its limited resources not, in this instance, to investigating violent criminal activity, or even the lethal drug epidemic sweeping the state and killing its residents at an astonishing rate.

Instead, apparently more important to ensuring Ohioans’ public safety Wednesday night was the investigation (requiring three undercover officers) of Clifford, and her subsequent arrest under a portion of the law making it a misdemeanor offense for an employee of a sexually oriented business to knowingly touch a patron while “nude” or “seminude.”

And, just to be clear, “seminude” could technically include a woman showing “cleavage with less than a fully opaque covering,” so cover up, ladies, lest your anatomy escapes an ill-fitting neckline!

I believe the law should be enforced without fear or favor — in a neutral manner. And I try to analyze the law in a neutral manner as well; I’ve been covering the Stormy Daniels saga for CNN Opinion since she captured America’s attention on Jimmy Kimmel and taught us all a thing or two about preconceived notions we may or may not have about women in the porn industry. (Don’t underestimate them.)

And I’ve called them like I’ve seen them when it comes to the legal strategies employed by Michael Avenatti, Clifford’s relentlessly media-savvy attorney (and he blocked me on Twitter, possibly for doing so here). So, I’m not just another #TeamStormy yes man (er … woman). But I genuinely believe that Avenatti is right to call this stunt out for what it was — a politically motivated setup.

As any criminal defense attorney knows, prosecutorial discretion is a hidden obstacle in the criminal justice system. And when it is weaponized for political purposes, the integrity of our judicial system suffers. Senseless arrests such as the one against Clifford do nothing to advance our interests in either public safety, or neutrality under the law.

Luckily, for Clifford, with charges dropped she can continue pursuing her civil disputes with Donald Trump and Michael Cohen in the courtroom — not from behind bars, where she doesn’t belong.