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Police say they made 'error' in Stormy Daniels arrest; charges dropped (UPDATED)

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    This photo provided by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office on Thursday shows porn actress Stormy Daniels. Daniels was arrested at a Columbus strip club and is accused of letting patrons touch her in violation of a state law, her attorney said early Thursday.

    FRANKLIN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE VIA AP

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Prosecutors dropped charges Thursday against Stormy Daniels just hours after the porn star was arrested and accused of illegally rubbing undercover police officers' faces against her bare breasts during a performance at an Ohio 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 President Donald Trump was charged with three misdemeanors, each punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. 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.

 

Columbus police chief Kim Jacobs said that "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.

 

Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted Daniels "refuses to be intimidated" and would "return to the scene of the 'no crime'" and perform again Thursday night at the club.

 

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 Defense Act that 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," said spokesman Sgt. Dean Worthington.

 

Franklin County Municipal Court records show 23 similar cases this year — including the charges against Daniels — 14 last year and six in 2016.

 

A person who answered the phone at the strip club declined to comment.

 

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 now suing to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement.

 

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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.

 

***

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Latest on the arrest of porn actress Stormy Daniels at a strip club in Ohio (all times local):

5 p.m.

The police chief in Ohio's capital city says the actions of officers who arrested porn star Stormy Daniels will be reviewed.

Kim Jacobs also said a mistake was made because one legal element needed for the arrest was missed. They said the so-called Community Defense Act couldn't be enforced because Daniels has only appeared once at the Columbus club and the law states it's for regular performers.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Daniels on Thursday hours after her arrest. She was accused of illegally rubbing undercover police officers' faces against her bare breasts during her strip club performance.

Jacobs says officers were "well within their area of responsibility" when making the arrests.

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.

___

3:40 p.m.

Stormy Daniels' lawyer says the porn star "refuses to be intimidated" following her arrest at an Ohio strip club and has decided to perform Thursday after all.

Michael Avenatti tweeted that Daniels will perform as scheduled, hours after she cancelled after the arrest.

Avenatti said Daniels "never ceases to impress!"

Daniels was arrested Wednesday night and accused of illegally rubbing undercover police officers' faces against her bare breasts during her performance.

She was booked under a 10-year-old state law known as the Community Defense Act that says dancers at "sexually oriented" businesses are prohibited from touching customers and vice versa.

Prosecutors dropped the charges Thursday. Court papers said the law couldn't be enforced because Daniels has only appeared once at the Columbus club and the law states it's for regular performers.

___

2:15 p.m.

Stormy Daniels' lawyer says the porn actress is "traumatized and rattled" after she was arrested at an Ohio strip club.

Michael Avenatti says Daniels is leaving the state after charges against her were dismissed Thursday afternoon.

Avenatti says she was performing Wednesday night in Columbus when several women asked if she would put her chest near their faces.

He said Daniels was on her tour bus after the event when officers knocked on the door and said they were arresting her.

Police said Daniels was arrested after touching a patron at a "sexually oriented" business in violation of the law known as the Community Defense Act.

Prosecutors dropped the charges Thursday. Court papers said the law couldn't be enforced because Daniels has only appeared once at the Columbus club.

___

1:10 p.m.

The attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels says prosecutors have dropped all charges against her following her overnight arrest at an Ohio adult club.

Michael Avenatti represents Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. He said Thursday afternoon in a tweet he was pleased prosecutors dropped the charges and thanked them for their professionalism.

A prosecutor's memo provided by Avenatti says an Ohio illegal touching law can't be enforced because Daniels has only appeared once at the Columbus club.

The law refers to someone "who regularly appears nude or semi-nude" at a club.

Messages were left with the Columbus city prosecutor's office seeking comment.

___

11:45 a.m.

Police in Ohio's capital city say the arrest of porn star Stormy Daniels was part of a long-term human trafficking investigation.

Columbus police say they learned of illegal activity at city adult clubs last fall.

Police said Thursday they've made numerous arrests under a law regarding illegal sexually oriented activity in a sexually oriented business. They didn't immediately provide the number of arrests.

Michael Avenatti is an attorney representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. He says he's skeptical of the police account, saying the intent of the undercover officers "did not appear to be to look for victims of human trafficking or prostitutes."

Police say two other women were arrested along with Daniels early Wednesday. They identified them as Miranda Panda of Marion, Ohio, and Brittany Walters of Pickerington in suburban Columbus.

___

10:40 a.m.

Porn star Stormy Daniels was arrested at an Ohio strip club under a 2007 law introduced by a conservative religious group that some say has seldom been enforced.

Charging documents say Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was arrested in a Wednesday performance for touching a patron in "sexually oriented" business in violation of the law known as the Community Defense Act.

The charges relate to the law prohibiting dancers from touching customers and customers touching dancers — excluding immediate family members. The Columbus Dispatch reported last year that the law is seldom enforced. Daniels was charged with three misdemeanor counts under that law.

A spokeswoman for Columbus' city attorney says the maximum penalty for conviction under one count is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

___

10:05 a.m.

A lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels says her arrest at an Ohio strip club was part of a "sting operation" and calls it an "absurd use" of police resources.

Michael Avenatti said Thursday on MSNBC the arrest is "ridiculous."

Charging documents say Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, was arrested Wednesday night for touching a patron at a "sexually oriented" business in violation of an Ohio strip club law. Avenatti said undercover female police officers asked Daniels if they could place their faces between her breasts while she was performing.

The law prohibits anyone who isn't a family member from touching a nude or semi-nude dancer.

Daniels is set to be arraigned Friday. Avenatti says she will plead not guilty.

A message left for a prosecutor wasn't immediately returned.

___

8:30 a.m.

Charging documents obtained by WSYX-TV in Columbus say porn actress Stormy Daniels was semi-nude and allegedly touched some of the patrons' breasts and allowed them to touch her prior to her arrest at a strip club in Ohio.

Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, was arrested during a performance at a strip club Wednesday and has been released on bond. The documents allege she performed the same act with several officers who approached the stage and forced one officer's head into her bare chest.

Daniels is set to be arraigned Friday on three misdemeanor counts of touching a patron at a "sexually oriented" business in violation of an Ohio strip club law.

Daniels's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, says she will plead not guilty to all counts.

___

8 a.m.

Porn actress Stormy Daniels, who was arrested in Columbus, Ohio, during a performance at a strip club, has been released on bond.

Franklin County Jail officials confirmed she was released around 6 a.m. Thursday. Court records show Daniels posted $6,000.

Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, is set for a Friday arraignment on three misdemeanor counts of touching a patron at a "sexually oriented" business in violation of an Ohio strip club law. The law prohibits anyone who isn't a family member to touch a nude or semi-nude dancer.

Daniels's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, says on Twitter that she will plead not guilty to all counts and has said the touching was in a "non-sexual" way.

___

7:45 a.m.

Stormy Daniels says in a statement that, as a result of her arrest at a Columbus, Ohio, strip club, she will not perform Thursday night.

Attorney Michael Avenatti posted Daniels' statement on Twitter early Thursday saying she apologized to her fans in Columbus. She says she is unable to go forward with her previously scheduled performance at Sirens after the events of Wednesday night.

Daniels was arrested and accused of allowing patrons to touch her, which is a violation of state law, at her Wednesday night show. She was released from the Franklin County jail early Thursday.

Avenatti says during Wednesday's performance, some patrons touched Daniels in a "non-sexual" way. He says they will fight all charges, which he called "bogus."

An Ohio law prohibits anyone who isn't a family member to touch a nude or semi-nude dancer.

___

7:10 a.m.

The lawyer for Stormy Daniels says the porn actress will plead not guilty to charges of allowing patrons to touch her after being arrested at an Ohio strip club.

Michael Avenatti posted on Twitter early Thursday that Daniels will enter the not guilty plea to three misdemeanor charges.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is accused of letting patrons touch her, which is a violation of a state law. She was taken into custody during a Wednesday night show in Columbus, Ohio.

Avenatti says during the performance, some patrons touched her in a "non-sexual" way. He says they will fight all charges, which he called "bogus."

An Ohio law prohibits anyone who isn't a family member to touch a nude or semi-nude dancer.

___

1:35 a.m.

Stormy Daniels' lawyer says the porn actress has been arrested at an Ohio strip club and is accused of letting patrons touch her, which is a violation of a state law.

Michael Avenatti tells The Associated Press on Thursday that Daniels was taken into custody during a show in Columbus, Ohio.

Avenatti says during the performance, some patrons touched her in a "non-sexual" way.

An Ohio law prohibits anyone who isn't a family member to touch a nude or semi-nude dancer.

Avenatti called the arrest a "complete set up." He says she was arrested inside the club.

A Columbus police spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

A person who answered the phone at Sirens, the strip club where Daniels performed, declined to comment.

***

COLUMBUS — 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 violation of a state law.

Her attorney said she was set up in a Columbus police sting operation, something police deny.

Charging documents say Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was arrested for touching a patron at a "sexually oriented" business in violation of the law commonly known as the Community Defense Act.

The documents said that 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.

The charges relate to the law prohibiting dancers from touching customers and customers touching dancers — excluding immediate family members. The arrest followed a performance Wednesday night at Sirens, a strip club in Columbus.

Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, 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 misdemeanors, with a maximum penalty for one count would be six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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.

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 Daniels' arrest was part of a long-term human trafficking investigation of illegal activity at city adult clubs. They say 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.

The police department "engages in these operations routinely," said spokesman Sgt. Dean Worthington.

Daniels's whereabouts were unclear. Her attorney said earlier in the day she planned to leave the state Thursday.

Avenatti posted on Twitter a statement by Daniels that said she apologized to her fans in Columbus, but she would not perform her previously scheduled Thursday night show.

A person who answered the phone at the strip club declined to comment.

Daniels has said she had sex with President Donald Trump in 2006, when he was married, which Trump has denied. She's suing Trump and his former longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and seeking to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election.


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