Stormy Daniels sues Ohio cops, claims she was arrested to protect Trump

In the federal civil rights suit, Daniels accuses the officers of arresting her during a strip club performance because she posed a threat to the president.
Image: Stormy Daniels exits the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York
Stormy Daniels exits the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York for a hearing related to Michael Cohen on April 16, 2018 in New York.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

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By Andrew Blankstein, Sarah Fitzpatrick and Rich Schapiro

Adult film star Stormy Daniels has filed a federal lawsuit against the Ohio police officers who arrested her at a strip club last summer, accusing them of engaging in a conspiracy to protect President Donald Trump.

Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago and is suing the president to void a non-disclosure agreement, was arrested by officers from the Columbus police department during a performance at Sirens Gentlemen's Club in Columbus in July 2018.

The charges, three misdemeanor sex offenses for allegedly inappropriately touching a female undercover officer, were dropped within hours.

The federal civil rights lawsuit targets four officers on the police department's vice unit: Det. Shana Keckley, Lt. Whitney Lancaster, Det. Mary Praither and Det. Steven Ratner.The suit was filed on her behalf by a legal team that includes Michael Avenatti, who also represented Daniels in her two lawsuits against the president.

In the suit, Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, accuses the officers of arresting her because she posed a threat to the president.

"Defendant Officers believed that Ms. Clifford was damaging President Trump and they thereafter entered into a conspiracy to arrest her during her performance in Columbus in retaliation for the public statements she had made regarding President Trump," reads the lawsuit filed Monday in a federal court in Ohio.

"Defendant Officers also arrested Ms. Clifford because they believed that doing so would damage her credibility in relation to any statements she had make or might in the future make against President Trump. Damaging Ms. Clifford's credibility in this way was another purpose of Defendant Officers' conspiracy."

A spokeswoman for the Columbus Division of Police released a brief statement.

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"We've been made aware of the lawsuit filed by Stephanie Clifford," said spokeswoman Denise Alex-Bouzounis. "The Columbus Division of Police internal affairs bureau continues its investigation. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on this matter at this time."

Daniels was charged under a seldom-enforced law that prohibits dancers from touching customers and customers from putting their hands on dancers.

The law applies only to regular strip club performers. Daniels was there as a special guest.

In announcing the dismissal of the charges, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said the officers believed they had probable cause to make the arrest but "one element of the law was missed in error and charges were subsequently dismissed."

Jacobs said the department's Internal Affairs Bureau would investigate the incident.

Two strip club workers were arrested along with Daniels. The charges against them were also dropped.

In the lawsuit, Daniels says the officers arrested the two workers merely to conceal that her arrest was politically-motivated.

"Defendant Officers calculated that, if they arrested other employees, they would be able to deny that Ms. Clifford's arrest was politically-motivated and unjustified by circumstances on the ground," the lawsuit says.

The suit refers to pro-Trump Facebook postings it says were made by Rosser using the alias "Steve Shaboykins."

One such post included the text: “Keep your Elephant Keep your Donkey We Have a Lion (Trump)," according to the lawsuit.

The suit also refers to emails that Keckley allegedly sent to her colleagues with attachments for the criminal complaints against Daniels and the two workers.

"Please don't post my name on Face Book (sic)!!...Thank me in person later," read one of the emails, according to the lawsuit.

Keckley also sent an email to her husband, declaring that Daniels was arrested. "It is all over CNN. I wanted you to know before everyone contacts you," it read, according to the suit. "I, Susan and Lancaster we arrested Stormy Daniels this morning she is in jail."

Daniels cooperated with federal authorities as part of a criminal investigation into Trump's longtime fixer, Michael Cohen. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in December after pleading guilty to several charges, including a campaign finance violation related to a hush-money payment for Daniels.

Daniels has filed two lawsuits against the president: one to get out of a nondisclosure agreement she signed in October 2016 ahead of the presidential election in exchange for $130,000, and another for defamation.

The defamation suit was dismissed in October 2018 and in December, Daniels was ordered to pay Trump's court costs of $293,000. After the dismissal, Daniels initially said she had not wanted to file the defamation suit and that Avenatti had filed it "against my wishes," but later said she and Avenatti had sorted out their differences.

Adiel Kaplan contributed.