Vice Officers Fired Over Stormy Daniels' 2018 Arrest at Ohio Strip Club

Neil Vigdor
Adult film actress Stormy Daniels attends the opening of the adult entertainment fair 'Venus' in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Two vice officers were fired Thursday by the city of Columbus, Ohio, for their role in the wrongful arrest of pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels at a strip club in 2018, an arrest that a lawyer for Daniels said was the result of a “conspiracy of dunces.”

The officers, Steven Rosser and Whitney Lancaster, were found to have violated police rules when they arrested Daniels on three counts of illegal sexually oriented activity and then lied to internal affairs investigators about the basis for the sting, city officials said.

The charges against Daniels were dropped within 24 hours, but not before the arrest, at Sirens Gentlemen’s Club in Columbus, drew national headlines. Daniels is best known for saying that she had an affair with Donald Trump before he was president.

Amid scrutiny that the arrest had been politically motivated, the city later paid $450,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Daniels. It also disbanded the troubled vice squad after a federal corruption investigation.

The disciplinary action against the officers had been recommended by the police chief in September and was upheld Thursday by Ned Pettus Jr., the city’s public safety director, who said in a memorandum accompanying the decision that Rosser and Lancaster had demonstrated a “gross neglect of duty and incompetence.”

Two other members of the Division of Police, Lt. Ronald Kemmerling and Sgt. Scott Soha, were suspended Thursday for conduct unbecoming of police officers in the arrest of Daniels, city officials said. Kemmerling was suspended for 240 hours and Soha for 120 hours.

Keith Ferrell, the president of the branch of the Fraternal Order of Police that represents all four officers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday but told The Columbus Dispatch that the officers planned to appeal the ruling to an arbitrator.

“We do not think the discipline is warranted to that level,” Ferrell told The Dispatch.

The charges against Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, stemmed from sworn statements given by the officers that Daniels, while dancing topless at the club July 11, 2018, pressed patrons’ faces into her chest and fondled the breasts of some women in the audience.

Daniels, who had a two-night booking at the club, performed similar acts on three officers and grabbed one by the buttocks, according to affidavits. She was taken to jail and appeared in a mug shot from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office before being released.

City officials concluded that the charges Clifford had been arrested on applied to people who “regularly” appear nude or seminude at a particular establishment, and Clifford had not appeared at the club consistently. They also noted that people previously arrested on the same charges were issued summonses, not arrested and taken to jail.

Clark Brewster, a lawyer for Daniels, said in an email Thursday night that the officers had abused their power.

“The strategy to arrest Stormy Daniels in Columbus was devoid of any genuine law enforcement purpose and instead was planned to garner publicity for the public takedown and humiliation of Stormy,” Brewster wrote. “True to her character, she didn’t shy away from standing her ground, exposing the wrongfulness of a conspiracy of dunces, and then holding the wrongdoers accountable in a federal lawsuit.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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