The police department in Columbus, Ohio, has disciplined five officers involved in last year’s arrest of the adult film star Stormy Daniels outside a strip club, the department said Wednesday.
Those five officers were found to have violated police rules of conduct, according to the department, and they now face the possibility of punishment ranging from a reprimand to firings. According to the statement, those punished included a commander, a lieutenant, a sergeant, and two of the arresting officers.
The arrest was carried out in July 2018 at one of Daniels’ strip club performances after she had gone public with allegations she had an affair with President Donald Trump starting in 2006. The officers arrested Daniels and two other women on charges of inappropriately touching customers. Within hours of the arrest, the charges were dropped against Daniels. (They were soon dropped for the other women as well.)
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, argued that the arrest had been politically motivated. A later internal review of the arrest found that it was not illegal but that it was improper.
Of the officers disciplined Wednesday, three are named in a lawsuit Daniels filed against the city and the police department, alleging the arrest amounted to a political conspiracy. Daniels contended that the two other women were only arrested along with her to cover the political motivations, and her lawsuit has referenced communications among the officers that indicated some of the officers had gloated about the arrest and its publicity afterwards. The department has said it will not give any details on the punishment because of the lawsuit.
The controversy is not the department’s only one. Serious allegations arose in March when a Columbus vice squad officer named Andrew Mitchell was accused of holding two women against their will and forcing them to have sex with him under threat of arrest. The FBI investigated the allegations, and Mitchell was charged in federal court with witness tampering, obstruction of justice, making a false statement to federal investigators, and deprivation of rights under color of law. Mitchell had worked for the department for three decades and retired just after he was charged, after three years in the vice unit.
Separately, according to NBC News, state authorities investigated Mitchell after he fatally shot a 23-year-old woman in August 2018. The woman had stabbed him in the hand while the two were sitting in his unmarked police car, and she was likely working as a sex worker at that time, according to state investigators. He now faces murder and manslaughter charges in the case.
In March, after Mitchell was charged, the police department announced it was disbanding its vice unit. Three members of the vice unit had participated in Daniels’ arrest, and all five officers who were disciplined on Wednesday worked for the unit.