An attorney for President Donald Trump is seeking to collect money owed to him by porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, by going after hundreds of thousands of dollars Daniels won after Ohio police officers illegally arrested her because of a strip show performance.
The drawn-out litigation arose when Trump retweeted an image which purported to show a sketch of a man who Daniels claimed approached her one day and intimidated her on Trump’s alleged behalf or bequest.
“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man,” Trump tweeted. “A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)! https://t.co/9Is7mHBFda
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
Daniels sued Trump for defamation over that tweet. She lost. Trump successfully invoked an anti-SLAPP statute to argue that his public participation speech was not defamatory to Daniels. The judge overseeing that defamation case said the tweet “appear[ed] to be rhetorical hyperbole by a public official involving a public figure,” not actual defamation.
Harder previously said it was “preposterous” that Daniels and her former attorney, convicted felon Michael Avenatti, believed Trump was entitled to only $25,000 in legal fees. Avenatti also proposed a sanction of only one dollar against Daniels herself.
The judge overseeing the defamation case, S. James Otero, a George W. Bush appointee, ordered that Daniels pay $292,052.33 to compensate Harder’s efforts and a $1,000 penalty sanction herself under the Texas Citizen Participation Act, that state’s anti-SLAPP measure. However, it was not easy for Harder to ultimately collect the amount the judge said was owed to him.
That brings us to Monday’s court motion in the Central District of California seeking the money Daniels won in Ohio. It states:
To Mr. Trump’s knowledge, Ms. Clifford does not possess any assets in this jurisdiction. Ms. Clifford is a resident of Texas and owns no real property in California. In contrast, she possesses substantial assets in the Southern District of Ohio in the form of the $450,000 in settlement funds being held by that court. Accordingly, Mr. Trump respectfully requests that the Court certify the Attorneys’ Fees Order for registration in the Southern District of Ohio.
The easy-come, easy-go Ohio money was the upshot of the protracted and disastrous arrest (and extremely short-lived prosecution) of Stormy Daniels. Back in July 2018, a group of officers arrested Daniels for touching them at a strip club where Daniels was dancing as a guest performer. The arrest failed to account for a loophole in the law — which Law&Crime immediately pointed out at the time. Prosecutors dropped the charges; the officers faced an internal investigation; whistleblower emails came to light; department charges were filed against those involved; police officials admitted the arrest was “improper.” Daniels vowed not to return to the scene of her non-crime and dished dirt about the arrest on national television. Avenatti, who represented Daniels at the time, sued the officers.
The settlement winnings are the money Harder is after. As he explained in his Monday court document:
On January 14, 2019, Ms. Clifford filed a Complaint in the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio against various police officers in the Columbus, Ohio Division of Police alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy and abuse of process, arising out of her arrest at an adult entertainment venue in Columbus, Ohio on July 11, 2018.
The $450,000 Daniels won in Ohio remains in the hands of a Clerk of Court in that state pending arguments about where it should go.
Though Daniels is appealing the underlying defamation case, Harder says the order for Daniels to cough up his attorney’s fees was not properly appealed and, therefore, at least some of the Ohio money should be his.
Wrapped up in this case is a complicated argument about an April 10, 2020 clerk’s order which Harder claims “contradicts” the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For more on that argument, read Harder’s motion in the reader below:
[Image via Tasia Wells/Getty Images for XBIZ.]
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