Columbus, OH – Two veteran police officers were fired and two police officials were suspended on Thursday in connection with the arrest of porn star Stormy Daniels during her performance at a Columbus strip club.
Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus terminated former Columbus police vice unit Officers Steven Rosser and Whitney Lancaster on Jan. 23, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Rosser, 43, was a 19-year veteran of the Columbus police force.
Lancaster, 57, had been a police officer for the city of Columbus for 32 years, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Both officers had been on desk duty since Daniels’ arrest on July 12, 2018 while she was performing a show in Columbus as part of her “Make American Horny Again” tour.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was performing at the adult entertainment club Sirens when she was alleged to have touched three different police officers in an illegal manner, according to WCMH.
Court documents said Daniels forced patrons’ faces into her breasts and used her bare breasts to smack patrons during her performance, WCMH reported.
Daniels also fondled the breasts and buttocks of female patrons in the strip club, including a female police officer, according to the probable cause affidavit filed with the Franklin County court.
An Ohio law passed in 2007, known as the “Ohio Stripper Bill,” instituted a no-touch rule between strippers and club patrons. The law prohibited nude, or partially nude, dancers from touching customers, and vice versa, FOX News reported.
A Columbus Police Department spokesperson confirmed that Daniels had been arrested after touching three different officers during the same performance, WCMH reported.
However, a loophole in the Ohio Revised Code that governs the behavior of strippers in adult clubs says that the law only applies to dancers who make repeated performances at the venue, according to the prosecutor.
The same rules don’t apply to guest strippers, so the charges against Daniels were dropped.
Daniels is best known for having sued President Donald Trump and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen over a nondisclosure agreement that she signed in which she agreed to keep quiet about an alleged affair.
Her attorney at the time of her arrest, Michael Avenatti, claimed that Daniels’ arrest was a setup and entirely political.
On Jan. 14, 2019, attorneys for Daniels filed a lawsuit against the Columbus police officers that alleged they violated her civil rights when they arrested her on July 11, 2018, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
The lawsuit accused Columbus Division of Police Officers Rosser, Lancaster, Shana Keckley, and Mary Praither of targeting her for political reasons, and alleged they were all Republicans or supporters of President Trump.
In the lawsuit, Daniels’ attorney cited social media postings and emails between the vice officers, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Daniels’ lawsuit sought a minimum of $2 million in damages for malicious prosecution, false arrest, civil conspiracy to violate her rights, abuse of process, and defamation.
“By maliciously releasing false statements to public newspapers and broadcasters and on social media platforms strongly implying Ms. Clifford was engaged in immoral conduct… defendants defamed Ms. Clifford, causing injury to her reputation and exposing her to contempt, ridicule, shame and disgrace in the community,” it read.
Despite those accusations, an internal investigation by the Columbus police in March determined that while the arrest of Daniels had not been politically motivated, it was “improper.”
Then-Interim Police Chief Thomas Quinlan said the officers facing administrative discipline had all been members of the now-defunct “Vice Squad,” NPR reported.
Columbus Police Commander Terry Moore, Lieutenant Ron Kemmerling, Sergeant Scott Soha, and Officers Rosser and Lancaster were all facing scrutiny from the department for their part in Daniels’ strip club arrest, according to WCMH.
“I made this decision because these officers violated our rules of conduct,” Chief Quinlan said.
The officers had individual hearings before the city’s director of public safety.
“The range of discipline for these officers can include a reprimand, a suspension, demotion, and/or termination,” Chief Quinlan said at the time.
Pettus said in a statement on Thursday that Rosser and Lancaster had been terminated because their handling of Daniels’ arrest “deviated significantly” from other strip club investigations they’d conducted, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
He also said the investigation had determined that Rosser had made false statements to internal investigators after the incident.
While Rosser and Lancaster were terminated, their supervisors received suspensions for their handling of the incident and their failure to supervise, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
The city’s public safety director suspended Lt. Kimmerling for six weeks and Sgt. Soha for three weeks based on findings that they failed to supervise the unit during the vice operation involving Daniels.
Lt. Kimmerling, 51, has been a member of the police department for 24 years and Sgt. Soha, 43, has 17 years on the force, according to the Columbus Dispatch.