COLUMBUS, OHIO >> Ohio’s capital city agreed today to pay porn actress Stormy Daniels $450,000 to settle a lawsuit over her arrest at a strip club last year, the latest fallout traced to the city’s now-disbanded vice unit.
Daniels’ federal defamation complaint against several Columbus officers alleged police conspired to retaliate against her over her claims that she had sex with Donald Trump before he became president.
She was arrested on suspicion of inappropriately touching an undercover officer following a performance at Sirens in July 2018, but the city attorney’s office dropped charges within hours.
The agreement was reached after mediation Friday, with all parties agreeing the figure was fair “given the facts and circumstances involved,” said Meredith Tucker, a spokeswoman for City Attorney Zach Klein.
A message was left with an attorney for Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
The interim Columbus police chief recommended this month that two officers from the former vice unit be fired for their roles in the undercover strip club operation that resulted in Daniels’ arrest.
Chief Tom Quinlan also recommended suspensions for a lieutenant and sergeant, and a written reprimand for a commander. The city’s safety director has the final say. The police union has called the recommended discipline excessive.
An internal police review determined Daniels’ arrest was improper but not planned in advance or politically motivated.
Officers chose to obtain evidence for alleged illegal touching of customers by dancers “by placing themselves, unnecessarily, at risk and potential for physical contact with Ms. Clifford,” the March report concluded.
The city disbanded the vice unit the same month as allegations of problems piled up, placing the investigation of vice-related crimes under the Narcotics division and promising a more community-based approach.
Problems with the unit included accusations that Andrew Mitchell, a former vice squad officer, fatally shot a woman in August 2018 who was sitting in his unmarked police vehicle in what Mitchell says was an act of self-defense.
Columbus police say Mitchell shot and killed 23-year-old Donna Castleberry after she stabbed him in the hand during an undercover prostitution investigation.
Mitchell has pleaded not guilty to those charges, as well as federal charges accusing him of forcing women to have sex with him under threat of an arrest, pressuring others to help cover up crimes, and lying to federal investigators when he said he had never had sex with prostitutes.
Castleberry’s family is seeking more than $3.5 million in damages in a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Mitchell, the city and the police department.