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Stormy Daniels arrested in Ohio strip club, but charges dismissed

(Reuters) - Stormy Daniels, the porn star who has said she had a sexual encounter with U.S. President Donald Trump, was arrested while performing at an Ohio strip club on Thursday, but the charges were dismissed and her lawyer called the arrest a politically motivated setup.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was taken into custody in the early morning after being accused of touching three customers who were undercover vice detectives, police in the state capital Columbus said.

But the misdemeanor charges were dismissed hours later. Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said Daniels committed no crime because she did not perform regularly at the club, as required under the law.

Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said officers at the club missed that element of the law.

“The facts behind the charges and the behavior witnessed by the vice officers are a matter of record, and the officers were well within their area of responsibility when taking enforcement action,” Jacobs said in a statement. “Nevertheless, a mistake was made and I accept full responsibility.”

The department will review the officers’ motivation, Jacobs said, “to ensure that our core values and duty to serve our community to the best of our ability continue to be the basis for our actions.”

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, said earlier on Twitter that the arrest was “a setup & politically motivated.”

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He welcomed Jacobs’ statement but demanded a full and open investigation into the officers’ conduct including their social media accounts, some of which he said were taken down on Thursday.

“Certain of these accounts appear to have been very pro-Trump. In the event it is discovered that my client was targeted & arrested because of our opposition to Mr. Trump, the resulting lawsuit & action will be swift and devastating,” he tweeted.

Columbus police said earlier that the arrest of Daniels and two other dancers at Sirens Gentlemen’s Club was part of a long-term investigation of alleged human trafficking, prostitution and other crimes at adult entertainment clubs in the city.

According to an arrest affidavit cited by the New York Times, Daniels was dancing topless at the club when she pressed patrons’ faces into her chest, fondled the breasts of some women in the audience and performed similar acts on three police officers who were at the establishment.

Daniels, 39, was released on $6,000 bail on three misdemeanor charges of illegally operating a sexually oriented business related to knowingly touching a patron.

Daniels has filed two civil lawsuits against Trump, with whom she said she had a sexual encounter in 2006, a decade before he was elected president. One lawsuit seeks to get out of a non-disclosure agreement she signed the month before the 2016 election in exchange for $130,000 to keep the episode secret, while the other is for defamation. Trump has denied the affair.

Daniels has said Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen paid her the $130,000. Cohen has confirmed he made the payment. Daniels is also suing Cohen. In May, Trump said Daniels was paid to stop “false and extortionist accusations.”

Prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible crimes related to his business dealings, a source familiar with the investigation told Reuters in April. He has not been charged.

Daniels has been on tour since last winter, appearing at strip clubs across the United States, and was due to perform again at Sirens on Thursday night. After the charges were dismissed, Avenatti said Daniels would seek to perform at another club in Columbus on Thursday night.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in MILWAUKEE and Bernie Woodall in FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.; Additional reporting by Heavey in WASHINGTON; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Marguerita Choy and Cynthia Osterman