Stormy Daniels was arrested at an Ohio strip club Wednesday for allegedly letting patrons touch her while she was on stage, a violation of state law. The sometime adult film star and director, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is currently on a tour titled “Make America Horny Again”—a play on her association with Donald Trump, American president. Immediately, her ubiquitous lawyer, Michael Avenatti, suggested the arrest was in no way random:
Just rcvd word that my client @StormyDaniels was arrested in Columbus Ohio whole performing the same act she has performed across the nation at nearly a hundred strip clubs. This was a setup & politically motivated. It reeks of desperation. We will fight all bogus charges. #Basta
She was arrested for allegedly allowing a customer to touch her while on stage in a non sexual manner! Are you kidding me? They are devoting law enforcement resources to sting operations for this? There has to be higher priorities!!! #SetUp #Basta
Clifford has pled not guilty to three misdemeanor charges and has posted $6,000 bail. She has also released a statement:
Official Statement From @StormyDaniels: As a result of what happened last night, I will unfortunately be unable to go forward with tonight’s scheduled performance. I deeply apologize to my fans in Columbus.
A few elements here immediately stick out. By Ohio law, when a strip club patron touches a performer, it’s the performer who’s legally liable? And perhaps more importantly, how often are these statutes really enforced? How often is a performer arrested for what sounds like run-of-the-mill behavior?
A reporter for libertarian outlet Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, suggested Ohio law lists a number of offenses in this same vein, and that “arresting strippers over petty nonsense is not uncommon, but usually predicated on some completely unrelated background grudge or politics.” The details of this case, of course, aren’t yet clear.
Still, it would be impossible to separate these events from Daniels’ background. She claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006. During the 2016 election, Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, set up a Delaware-based shell company to pay her $130,000 in hush money in exchange for signing an NDA. (Daniels also alleges that in 2011 a man approached her and her young daughter in a Las Vegas parking lot and threatened her: “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”)
After a series of less-and-less-sweeping denials (read: a series of collapsing lies), it emerged that Trump knew full well about the payment and reimbursed Cohen for it. Trump still maintains he did not have sex with Daniels. For more than a year, however—and thanks in large part to Avenatti—Daniels has been a thorn in Trump’s side from a legal and political standpoint.
None of that’s to say the decision-making here goes particularly far up the food chain. We just have to ask ourselves: Would Clifford have gone to jail last night if she had a different past and a different stage name?
Update (2:07 p.m.): The charges against Daniels have been dropped, according to The New York Times:
Prosecutors added they were not consulted before officers carried out the sting operation.