Columbus police vice detective relieved of assignment, placed on desk duty

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COLUMBUS – A Columbus Division of Police vice detective who was among four officers that arrested Stormy Daniels, has been relieved of his assignment, 10 Investigates has learned. Det. Steve Rosser had his badge and gun taken away Wednesday, 10 Investigates confirmed through CPD spokesman Sgt. Chantay Boxill.

Sgt. Boxhill tells 10TV that the decision to relieve Rosser of his assignment was “because of information gained” by the FBI from its ongoing investigation into the vice unit.

A message seeking comment was left with FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren Thursday morning.

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Daniels and two other women were arrested in July.

Chief Kim Jacobs suspended the operations of the vice unit in early September in wake of two controversial incidents – the arrest of Daniels and the two other women and the fatal officer-involved shooting of a woman during a reported prostitution sting by Officer Andrew Mitchell. Officer Mitchell was already the focus of a separate criminal probe at the time of the shooting.

The FBI is now leading a joint investigation into the vice unit.

Rosser is among a group of officers who have been sued in federal court, accused of using their conservative political views to target Daniels during her July performance at Sirens, a Columbus strip club.

10 Investigate previously reported that while investigating activities inside Columbus strip clubs, undercover vice officers – including Det. Rosser - and others with the Columbus Division of Police spent more than $2,700 on tips and lap dances and more than $1,600 on alcohol. The information came from a 10 Investigates review of the expense reports dating back to 2017.

A department spokeswoman says the monies were evidence funds, which are still part of the city’s general fund.

10 Investigates also reviewed police investigative files, conducted interviews with attorneys, dancers, club owners, and employees to get a better sense of the police investigations inside Columbus strip clubs.

What we found: the vice unit has cited more women for giving undercover officers lap dances than those who were actually cited for solicitation – which was what prompted police to investigate the Kahoots gentlemen’s club in March of 2017.

Police officers’ personnel files were also reviewed, as were past court cases and those who have questioned the motivations of some of the officers and others who are supportive of their work.

Among our other findings: of the 41 people who were charged over the past two years by both Columbus Police and other law enforcement agencies, 35 of them have worked at Kahoots.

That’s led some employees to suggest that the club was unfairly targeted.

The issue of Columbus police and other law enforcement agencies inside strip clubs drew national headlines after Daniels and the two other women were arrested in July. They were accused of violating the terms of Ohio’s “no contact” law by having their bodies make contact with the undercover officers.

Columbus city attorney Zach Klein chose not to pursue the charges – later dismissing them against Daniels and the two other women after he determined that the officers acting in their official capacity weren’t technically patrons, so no crime was committed.

In the weeks that followed, dozens of other people who had been cited under the “no contact” law saw their charges dismissed.

10 Investigates also previously reported that Rosser’s credibility had been questioned by Judge David Tyack, who found that in 2015, that Rosser, while working in his official duties as a vice detective, entrapped six bartenders at the Goat Tavern in New Albany.

The case alleged that the bartenders sold to an underage confidential informant that Rosser brought into the bar. Rosser’s ex-girlfriend used to work at the bar but Rosser said in open court that he had “no ill will” towards the establishment, according to a copy of the court transcript reviewed by 10 Investigates.

Judge Tyack told 10 Investigates he found that the bartenders knew Rosser personally and had no pre-disposition to sell to an underage customer. Tyack told 10 Investigates that he believed the bartenders trusted Rosser, who played on the bar’s volleyball and euchre teams and didn’t believe they would have sold to an underage customer otherwise.

Jeremy Sokol, an employee of Kahoots, is supportive of the department’s efforts. He may be an unlikely source of support, given the fact he was a target of a vice investigation last year.

But after Sokol said he was cleared by authorities, he told 10 Investigates during a recent interview that he began working with the vice unit to clean up his surroundings.

When asked if he was supportive of the vice unit’s investigations inside strip clubs, Sokol said:

“Oh, very much so. And I've worked both sides of this. I've worked with these two detectives and it was an honor. It was a privilege.”

Sokol declined to comment on the news Wednesday.

Rosser did not immediately respond to email messages seeking comment.

Part of the information that was forwarded to the FBI included a 40-page packet that makes damning allegations against the vice unit and Sokol. When questioned by 10 Investigates, Sokol denied any wrongdoing.

The police department has said the claims contained in the packet have not been substantiated. 10 Investigates is not detailing those allegations because no one has been charged and we could not independently verify them.

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