Editor’s Note: Caroline Polisi is a federal and white-collar criminal defense attorney in New York and is of counsel at Pierce Bainbridge. She frequently appears on CNN as a legal analyst and is an anchor at the Law & Crime Network, providing live legal analysis on high-profile court cases. Follow her on Twitter: @CarolinePolisi. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author; view more opinion articles on CNN.
America’s favorite porn star, Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels), was arrested early Thursday for doing her job at a strip club in Ohio. Undercover police officers apprehended Clifford at Sirens Gentlemen’s Club, citing three misdemeanor offenses involving illegally touching patrons during her performance, in violation of Ohio state law. After posting $6,054 in bail, she was released, and the charges have since been dropped.
One can imagine – vaguely – just how the situation played out.
While Clifford may be public enemy No. 1 in some political circles for unabashedly wanting to tell her story about her alleged consensual affair with Donald Trump in 2006 (as she detailed in a 2011 interview with In Touch), she’s hardly the kind of dangerous criminal we should be pouring our investigative and prosecutorial resources into apprehending.
Apparently, Ohio state law enforcement officials deemed it necessary to devote its limited resources not, in this instance, to investigating violent criminal activity, or even the lethal drug epidemic sweeping the state and killing its residents at an astonishing rate.
Instead, apparently more important to ensuring Ohioans’ public safety Wednesday night was the investigation (requiring three undercover officers) of Clifford, and her subsequent arrest under a portion of the law making it a misdemeanor offense for an employee of a sexually oriented business to knowingly touch a patron while “nude” or “seminude.”
And, just to be clear, “seminude” could technically include a woman showing “cleavage with less than a fully opaque covering,” so cover up, ladies, lest your anatomy escapes an ill-fitting neckline!
I believe the law should be enforced without fear or favor – in a neutral manner. And I try to analyze the law in a neutral manner as well; I’ve been covering the Stormy Daniels saga for CNN Opinion since she captured America’s attention on Jimmy Kimmel and taught us all a thing or two about preconceived notions we may or may not have about women in the porn industry. (Don’t underestimate them.)
And I’ve called them like I’ve seen them when it comes to the legal strategies employed by Michael Avenatti, Clifford’s relentlessly media-savvy attorney (and he blocked me on Twitter, possibly for doing so here). So, I’m not just another #TeamStormy yes man (er … woman). But I genuinely believe that Avenatti is right to call this stunt out for what it was – a politically motivated setup.
As any criminal defense attorney knows, prosecutorial discretion is a hidden obstacle in the criminal justice system. And when it is weaponized for political purposes, the integrity of our judicial system suffers. Senseless arrests such as the one against Clifford do nothing to advance our interests in either public safety, or neutrality under the law.
Luckily, for Clifford, with charges dropped she can continue pursuing her civil disputes with Donald Trump and Michael Cohen in the courtroom – not from behind bars, where she doesn’t belong.