COLUMBUS, Ohio — Stormy Daniels’ arrest at a Columbus strip club in 2018 drew national headlines and brought increased scrutiny on the now-dismantled vice unit from the Columbus Division of Police.
It also cost the city of Columbus $450,000.
Daniels – whose real name is Stephanie Clifford – sued the city of Columbus that year alleging that her arrest involved Republican or Trump supporting officers in the vice unit who she alleged “conspired to arrest her… in retaliation for the public statements she had made regarding President Trump.”
The lead detective involved her arrest – Steve Rosser – was later fired from the city. But in an interview with internal affairs investigators, Rosser denied that her arrest was politically motivated. He also acknowledged that he did operate a social media account that her lawsuit alleged including pro-Trump statements. Rosser also admitted to internal affairs investigators that he deleted the account after her arrest.
The internal investigation determined that Daniels’ arrest was improper but that there was no long-term pre-planning, despite internal emails that showed detectives had shared a picture of Donald Trump and Daniels and map of where she planned to perform at the now-closed Siren’s strip club.
Months before her performance there, Daniels appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes detailing an alleged sexual affair she had with Trump in the mid-2000s. She also came forward with allegations that Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, had paid her $130,000 to not say anything about the alleged affair.
Trump’s handling of that payment and others is now at the center of a criminal case being investigated by the Manhattan district attorney.
Trump’s indictment marked the first time in U.S. history that a former president has faced criminal charges. Trump, flanked by his attorneys Tuesday, pleaded not guilty.
Daniels referenced that alleged $130,000 hush money payment in her now-settled lawsuit with the city of Columbus. It read in part:
“Ms. Clifford has frequently and publicly spoken out against President Trump, making statements that she had a sexual affair with him in 2006 and that President Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her one-hundred and thirty-thousand dollars ($130,000) to not say anything about the affair during President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Specifically, in March 2018, Ms. Clifford sued to be released from a non-disclosure agreement relating to the affair and… on March 25, 2018, she discussed the matter on “60 Minutes” to a record television audience. Mr. Trump and his supporters have since sought to disparage her character and credibility.”
The lawsuit later claimed:
“At some point in time, before July 11, 2018, Defendant Officers became aware that Ms. Clifford was scheduled to visit Sirens.
Defendant Officers believed that Ms. Clifford was damaging President Trump and they thereafter entered into a conspiracy to arrest her during her performance in Columbus in retaliation for the public statements she had made regarding President Trump.
Defendant Officers also arrested Ms. Clifford because they believed that doing so would damage her credibility in relation to any statements she had made or might make in the future against President Trump.”
City council later approved that settlement.
Two of the officers involved – including Rosser - were later fired.
The vice unit was dismantled less than nine months after Daniel’s arrest.
The administrative charging documents from Columbus Police filed against Rosser and his colleague Whitney Lancaster stated that the arrest of Daniels and two other women on July 11, 2018 “deviated significantly” from the investigations at other strip clubs.
Rosser told internal affairs investigators that they were acting on a tip looking for an alleged underaged dancer by the name of “Pearl.” Then CPD Chief Thomas Quinlan accused Rosser of being untruthful about the reason for investigating Sirens the night Stormy Daniels was arrested.
Rosser and Lancaster were stripped of their badges and re-assigned to desk duty in 2018 following the controversy stemming from the arrest of Daniels and their work inside Columbus strip clubs.
On Wednesday, 10 Investigates reported that Rosser and Lancaster made approximately $98,000 in 2019 while assigned to desk duty.
Both officers have been named in separate lawsuits – one filed by Daniels that alleged her arrest was politically motivated because of her alleged affair with Donald Trump, which the now-president denies.
Two other lawsuits filed on behalf of the management and former dancers at Kahoot’s strip club alleged that their club was targeted and given citations by Rosser and Lancaster after club managers balked at a request by the officers to re-hire bouncer who had been fired.
Additionally, the city’s public safety director at the time recommended two other officers be suspended.