COLUMBUS, Ohio — Porn star Stormy Daniels sued several Columbus police officers Monday for $2 million over her arrest at a strip club last summer, an incident that sparked criticism of the law used to arrest her and led to other lawsuits against the city.
Daniels’ federal defamation lawsuit alleges that officers conspired to retaliate against the actress because of her claims she had sex with Donald Trump before he became president.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was arrested in July on suspicion of inappropriately touching a female undercover officer. Two other club employees also were arrested.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Daniels hours later, saying the law cited in her arrest applied only to those who regularly performed at the club.
The four officers named in the lawsuit were Trump supporters who saw an opportunity to defame Daniels after they learned she planned to perform at Sirens men’s club, according to the lawsuit, filed by Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, a frequent Trump critic who at one time considered running for president.
The 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,” according to the lawsuit.
Officers also believed arresting Daniels would damage her credibility in any future remarks she made about the president, the lawsuit said.
The police department declined comment while an internal investigation of the city vice squad continues.
The 10-year-old law used to arrest Daniels states that dancers at “sexually oriented” businesses are prohibited from touching customers and vice versa.
Last year, City Attorney Zach Klein called the law “glaringly inequitable” because its applicability depends on how regularly the employee performs and should not be enforced. He also said employees who touch police are not in violation because on-duty public officials are not legally considered patrons.
“We’re aware of the lawsuit and are working to determine the best course of action for the city,” Meredith Tucker, a Klein spokeswoman, said Monday.
The two dancers arrested with Daniels that night have filed a similar lawsuit.
Those arrests and a fatal shooting have led to internal and federal investigations of the city’s vice squad.
In August, a member of the squad shot and killed a woman in his unmarked car; her family members said she was working as a prostitute in the area.
The following month, Police Chief Kim Jacobs suspended the vice squad’s street-level duties, and the FBI took over an investigation of the unit at her request.
The squad resumed some investigative work late last year. Two detectives involved in the Daniels’ arrest and the officer accused of shooting the woman have been relieved of duty.