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Friday Jul 13 2018

Stormy Daniels strip club charges dropped, lawyer slams 'setup'

Adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, speaks alongside her lawyer Michael Avenatti (R) in New York, US, April 16, 2018. AFP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Files

WASHINGTON: Charges were dropped against adult film star Stormy Daniels on Thursday after an Ohio strip club arrest that her lawyer slammed as a "politically motivated" set-up against the woman suing US President Donald Trump.

Daniels, 39, was apprehended without incident during a performance late Wednesday at the Sirens club in Columbus, Ohio, after officers accused her of touching patrons "in a specified anatomical area".

Police approached Daniels at the club during her performance as she interacted with patrons, according to an incident report published online by a local news outlet.

Ohio law prohibits employees who regularly appear "nude or semi-nude on the premises of a sexually-oriented business" from being touched by or touching clubgoers unless they are members of the dancer's immediate family.

Another officer in the back of the venue went to get back-up before arresting Daniels, who was released on bond.

Her lawyer Michael Avenatti announced Thursday that the charges had been "dismissed in their entirety" and thanked prosecutors for their "professionalism" in a tweet.

The state of Ohio moved to dismiss the case because it did "not have probable cause to proceed on any of the three charges set forth in the complaints", according to scanned court documents that Avenatti posted to social media.

The court papers said "no evidence" was provided that Daniels "appears or has appeared regularly at Sirens".

Avenatti charged earlier that "undercover" officers "asked" for the intimacy.

"Unbeknownst to her, the police set up a sting operation within the strip club," he told MSNBC.


Avenatti called the three misdemeanour charges "an absurd use of law enforcement resources."

Daniels later announced that a follow-up performance at the same club Thursday — initially cancelled — would go ahead after all.

She vowed to donate "all tips" to the lawyers' fees for two other dancers arrested with her. "Come support the working women of this city," she tweeted.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing Trump and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to nullify a 2016 non-disclosure agreement preventing her from speaking out about an alleged affair she says she had with Trump in 2006.

Cohen paid Daniels $130,000, just days before the 2016 election, in exchange for her silence.

She wants the non-disclosure agreement thrown out on the grounds that it is not valid because Trump never signed it.

Asked if Daniels' arrest could impact her legal wrangling with Cohen, Avenatti said: "Not at all."

Through White House officials, Trump has denied the affair with Daniels, although Cohen has admitted paying her $130,000 as part of the agreement.

He initially said he used his own money to pay Daniels and was not reimbursed by Trump.

However, the Republican president — who initially denied knowledge of the payment — subsequently conceded that Cohen was, in fact, reimbursed.


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