Early Thursday morning, adult film star Stormy Daniels was arrested at an Ohio strip club under the state’s rarely-enforced Community Defense Act. The law contains a number of provisions regulating sexually oriented businesses, including physical contact between dancers and patrons, but it could also hold the key to Daniels’ defense.
Daniels was arrested because the law prohibits not only customers from touching dancers, but dancers from touching customers. According to news reports, Daniels was performing at Sirens in Columbus, Ohio. According to police, several officers–some reports say they were undercover— were in attendance, and Daniels touched several of them, including allegedly touching a female officer’s breasts and buttocks, and putting officers’ faces between her own breasts.
This may seem like a clear violation of a law that prohibits touching, but the language of the statute may provide a work-around for Daniels. The applicable section of the law, 2907.40 Section (C)(2) states:
No employee who regularly appears nude or seminude on the premises of a sexually oriented business, while on the premises of that sexually oriented business and while nude or seminude, shall knowingly touch a patron who is not a member of the employee’s immediate family or another employee who is not a member of the employee’s immediate family or the clothing of a patron who is not a member of the employee’s immediate family or another employee who is not a member of the employee’s immediate family or allow a patron who is not a member of the employee’s immediate family or another employee who is not a member of the employee’s immediate family to touch the employee or the clothing of the employee.
The key phrase is right at the beginning, and specifies an “employee who regularly appears nude or seminude on the premises.” If this was a special appearance, it would be hard to argue that she “regularly appears” there. The statute even goes out of its way to define “regularly” as “consistently or repeatedly.”
In an email to Law&Crime, Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti, who has been representing her in lawsuits against President Donald Trump and Michael Cohen, said he also noticed this language in the statute.
“I raised this with prosecutors at 7:30 am this morning,” Avenatti said.
Since the law is rarely enforced, case law doesn’t appear to shed any light on the matter, as far as how courts have interpreted the language. This could be a good chance for Daniels to test it. She currently faces three misdemeanor charges, and posted $6,000 bond Thursday morning. She is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.
Note: This article has been updated.
[Image via Franklin County Sheriff’s Office]