When Stormy Daniels was arrested at a strip club in Ohio earlier this year, her attorney Michael Avenatti suggested that the arrest was politically motivated, and an attempt to intimidate her. Now, he may be proven right with the help of a document related to the Columbus police department’s internal investigation.
Daniels, who famously claims to have had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006 shortly after he married Melania, and recently had her defamation lawsuit against Trump dismissed, was arrested at Sirens Gentlemen’s Club in Columbus, Ohio, in July along with two employees of the club, for touching customers, including undercover police officers, and “squeezing the detective’s face in between her breasts.” The charges against Daniels were dropped after less than 24 hours, with prosecutors saying they didn’t have probable cause to pursue the case.
The two other women are suing the police department over their arrests, and Avenatti told Rolling Stone in an email that he and Daniels might sue as well. “The arresting officers’ bogus stories are falling apart. We are strongly considering bringing suit as a result of my client’s illegal arrest and the officers’ violation of law,” he said, adding that they may sue either the Columbus police department, the individual officers involved, or both.
Shortly after the arrests at Sirens, a whistleblower leaked emails to the media that indicated that officers were specifically targeting Daniels. The emails, sent between several high-ranking officers involved in the case, included news articles about Daniels’ planned appearances in Columbus, photos of her with President Trump, videos of her dancing, and even a map to the club — all days before she was in town, and before she was allegedly randomly caught up in an investigation at the club. Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs acknowledged “a mistake was made,” and the FBI opened an investigation into the vice unit that made the arrests.
Now, a leaked internal police department document obtained by The Appeal suggests that the arresting officers lied about the legal basis for their undercover operation. The police department declined to comment on their internal investigation, saying only that it was still ongoing.
In their arrest reports and sworn affidavits, officers claimed that the reason they were at Sirens in the first place was because of “complaints received alleging prostitution and drug activity.” But the document shows that during an interview with the Internal Affairs Bureau, the unit’s supervising commander Terry Moore said, “there was no specific complaint at Sirens being investigated on the date that the arrests occurred.”
Moore said that “the politics related to Ms. Clifford [Daniels’ legal name] were never discussed,” but also that he was “not directly involved in the planning or coordination of the operation.”
Daniels’ arrest came amid the height of the controversy surrounding Daniels and President Trump; three months after the office of Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was raided by the FBI, and one month before Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, saying in his statement that he paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump at the president’s behest, after previously claiming that he’d done it without Trump knowing.
Columbus-based civil rights attorney Edward Forman is suing the Columbus police department on behalf of the two other women who were arrested that night, claiming that they were false arrests that violated his clients’ fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, and that the operation was “a set-up from day one.”
On whether he believes the arrests were politically motivated, Forman says, “There’s no doubt about it. It’s the biggest bunch of bullshit I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“They had no cause whatsoever, they knew damn well that our clients hadn’t violated any laws, but they were so desperate to make an arrest to impress Donald Trump or whatever they were doing,” he tells Rolling Stone. “The only reason my clients were arrested was because they were looking for cover to make it look like it was an actual investigation and not like they were there specifically for Stormy Daniels.”
“I’m personally very excited to see what the FBI case turns up,” Forman added. “I would not be surprised if they turned up some facts that would be very helpful for my lawsuit.”
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the recent police documents had been leaked. This story has been updated to clarify that they were obtained by The Appeal.