Stormy Daniels’ co-defendants Miranda Panda and Brittany Walters filed a lawsuit in federal district court Tuesday morning alleging Columbus Police Vice Unit officers wrongfully arrested them in July.
The lawsuit says the four officers involved committed “false arrest, malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy, and defamation, and, alternatively, abuse of process.” The officers named are Shana Keckley, Whitney Lancaster, Mary Praither and Steven Rosser.
Daniels, Panda and Walters charged with violating Ohio’s Community Defense Act in a July 11 appearance at Sirens on Cleveland Ave. Charges against Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, were dropped the day after the arrest.
Lawyer Edward Hastie says the officers wanted to retaliate against Clifford’s political activity, and so involved Panda and Walters to legitimize the arrest. Cliffords has sued President Trump and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen over a 2016 hush payment following an alleged affair with Trump.
“We believe and my clients believe they were added onto this to make it look like there was something more going on than apparently just they wanted to harass a woman who was suing the president of the United States,” Hastie said.
The lawsuit also says the involved officers falsely insinuated to the public that Panda and Walters were engaged in prostitution or human trafficking.
“The criminal complaint filed against Miranda, for example, says she was nude or semi-nude while working,” Hastie said. “She was none of those things. She was a waitress and she was fully clothed.”
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein later dismissed the charges against Panda and Walters. Klein said that Walters did not qualify because she did not touch a patron, while Panda did not qualify because she did not appear "nude or semi-nude" as a server. Klein later said he would decline to prosecute any cases under the "Community Defense Act," and recommended Columbus Police no longer enforce it.
Last week, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs asked the FBI to help with an investigation into the Columbus Police Vice Unit. Earlier in September, Columbus Police announced that it would pause all but the most important Vice Unit cases while it conducted an internal review.
The Task Force investigating the Vice Unit includes the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the state auditor.