COLUMBUS, Ohio — Porn actress Stormy Daniels was arrested at an Ohio strip club and accused of letting patrons touch her in violation of a state law, and her attorney said Thursday she was set up in a sting operation.
While Daniels was performing Wednesday night at Sirens, a strip club in Columbus, some patrons touched her in a “non-sexual” way, her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told The Associated Press.
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.
Messages left for the city attorney’s spokeswoman for a response to Avenatti’s allegations weren’t immediately returned. City attorney spokeswoman Meredith Tucker said in a statement earlier Thursday that they are aware of the charges against Daniels. She says they are “in conversations with the defense counsel” and working to gather “all necessary information,” but can’t comment further because of the pending litigation.
The three counts against Daniels are first-degree misdemeanors. Tucker says the maximum penalty for one count would be six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If convicted of all three counts, Daniels could face up to 18 months in jail and $3,000 in fines.
Police say two other women were arrested along with Daniels.
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 commonly 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.
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.
According to charging documents, 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. Court records show Daniels posted $6,000.
Avenatti said that a not guilty plea to all counts would be entered on his client’s behalf on Thursday, so she wouldn’t have to make a court appearance Friday. He said Daniels 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.
Associated Press writers Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati, Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus and Bob Lentz in Philadelphia contributed to this report.