Police in probe that led to Stormy Daniels arrest charged

Columbus police say five officers face discipline for the 2018 undercover investigation at a strip club that led to the arrest of Stormy Daniels

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Five officers associated with an undercover investigation that led to Stormy Daniels' arrest at a strip club last year face discipline, the Columbus police department announced.

The department said Wednesday that the officers could face punishment ranging from a reprimand to firing. The officers include a commander, lieutenant, sergeant and two of the arresting officers, all part of a vice unit that was later disbanded.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was arrested at Sirens in July 2018 on suspicion of inappropriately touching an undercover officer. Prosecutors dropped charges against Daniels hours later, saying the law cited in her arrest applied only to those who regularly performed at the club.

Those allegations against police are included in Daniels' federal defamation lawsuit for $2 million in federal court in Columbus. That lawsuit was filed in January against several Columbus police officers.

The police department announced this year that an internal review found the arrest was improper but not planned or politically motivated. And the city attorney has said in responses to Daniels' lawsuit that the city denies that it "approved of and/or condoned any alleged harassment."

Chase Mallory, an attorney representing Daniels in her defamation lawsuit, said Thursday that he would disagree with any finding "that the arrest wasn't politically motivated or at least motivated by improper reasons."

"From our initial review of the facts, it was clear that Stormy was targeted for a high-profile arrest," he said.

Interim police Chief Tom Quinlan made the decision to charge the five officers departmentally because they "violated the Columbus Division of Police rules of conduct," according to Wednesday's release.

The department on Thursday released documents detailing the charges after initially saying Wednesday that it wouldn't provide further information because of the pending litigation and a concurrent FBI investigation into the activities of the vice unit.

The documents released Thursday contain charges accusing one officer of giving tacit approval of the operation without giving "proper weight to the potential negative consequences." Charges against some officers include not properly supervising subordinates and not ensuring that subordinates properly documented the hours they worked.

The documents associated with charges against some officers also indicate the actions taken at the club "deviated significantly" from previous investigations at other strip clubs.

"This arrest was not like any other strip club investigations because in the other strip club investigations, all charges were filed at a later time, or the offender was released on summons," Quinlan wrote.

Two of the officers are accused of making an improper arrest of Daniels and of failing to submit accurate timekeeping records, among other charges. The documents also charge that one of those officers didn't follow protocol by interviewing Daniels while she was in the back of a prisoner transport vehicle.

Each officer will have a hearing before Quinlan this month.

A message seeking comment was left Thursday with the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, which represents the officers.

The vice unit was disbanded in March. Quinlan has said that vice-related crimes going forward will be handled differently and with a more community-based approach.