Stormy Daniels' charges dropped; arrest part of "sting operation," lawyer says

Last Updated Jul 12, 2018 4:17 PM EDT

Charges have been dismissed against porn actress Stormy Daniels hours after her arrest at an Ohio strip club where she was performing, her lawyer says. The lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said Thursday that Daniels was set up in a sting operation, which police deny. 

While Daniels was performing Wednesday night at Sirens, a strip club in Columbus, some patrons touched her in a "non-sexual" way, Avenatti told The Associated Press. Daniels had been charged with letting patrons touch her in violation of a state law.

Avenatti 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.

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Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford

Franklin County Sheriff's Office

"It was an absurd use of law enforcement resources," Avenatti said.

Avenatti said Daniels was on her tour bus after the event when officers knocked on the door and said they were arresting her. He said the porn actress is "traumatized and rattled." Daniels was leaving the state Thursday after charges were dropped, he said.

Columbus police told CBS News that Daniels was not targeted as a part of a sting operation. Undercover detectives were at the club as a part of a long-term investigation of illegal activity at city adult clubs, said police spokeswoman Denise Alex-Bouzounis. 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 law prohibits dancers from touching customers and customers touching dancers - excluding immediate family members. The motion to dismiss argues the law only applies to nude or semi-nude dancers who "regularly" perform at the venues. 

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, on July 11.

Avenatti tweeted the motion to dismiss the charges, which was filed in Franklin County Municipal Court by Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. 

Avenatti tweeted Thursday morning that the motion had been granted and thanked the prosecutor's office for their "professionalism starting with our first call early this am."

Police say they learned of the alleged illegal activity at city strip clubs last fall and launched the investigation into allegations of human trafficking, prostitution, and other "vice-related" violations. 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.

Police said two other women were arrested along with Daniels. Charges against both of them have also been dropped, Alex-Bouzounis said.

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.  A police release said she "illegally touched" three undercover officers.

She was released on bail before 6 a.m. Thursday. Daniels posted $6,000.

Avenatti posted a statement on Twitter by Daniels that said she apologized to her fans in Columbus, and that she would not perform her previously scheduled Thursday night show. A later tweet by Avenatti said that Daniels would perform again at the "scene of 'no crime.'"

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.