The Ohio vice squad that arrested Stormy Daniels at a Columbus strip club this summer is now under federal investigation.
On Thursday, Columbus police chief Kim Jacobs announced the FBI’s Public Corruption Task Force is probing her agency’s vice section for criminal activity in light of “high-profile incidents,” including Daniels’ motorboating bust and the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old woman during a prostitution sting operation.
“Recent high-profile incidents have brought forward a variety of allegations against the Vice section via social media postings and other sources,” a press release from the Columbus Division of Police stated. “Persons who have knowledge of criminal activity by members of the Columbus Police Vice personnel are asked to call a tip line set up by the FBI to investigate these claims.”
In July, cops cuffed Daniels under an arcane state law that bans nude or semi-nude performers from touching patrons who aren’t family members. The Columbus city attorney dropped charges against Daniels the next day, saying no crime was committed.
Daniels’ attorney called the roundup, which came during the porn actress’ cross-country strip tour, a “politically motivated” setup.
“The only question is how far up the chain will it show that it came from,” Michael Avenatti said in an appearance on ABC’s The View, adding, “Were these just some rogue officers or were others involved? I think this is going to be very interesting.”
Indeed, Daniels’ arrest may have been pre-planned.
Emails obtained by The Fayette Advocate showed one vice detective was researching Daniels—who catapulted to the national spotlight over her alleged romp with President Trump—two days before the sting at Sirens Gentleman’s Club.
Vice detective Shana Keckley’s emails included press clippings previewing Daniels’ appearances in Columbus, photos of Daniels with Trump, videos of her dancing, and a map to the strip club, the Advocate reported.
Police initially said Daniels’ bust was “part of a long-term investigation into allegations of human trafficking, prostitution, along with other vice-related violations.” But Keckley’s emails to colleagues suggested otherwise.
“I got the elements….we arrested Stormy this morning, she is in jail,” she wrote. In another message, Keckley bragged about collaring the adult performer without naming her: “You’re Welcome!!!!!….Thank me in person later.”
One month after Daniels’ catch and release, undercover vice cop Andrew Mitchell shot and killed a 23-year-old woman after she allegedly stabbed him in the hand. (It doesn’t appear Mitchell was involved in Operation Stormy.)
The victim, Donna Castleberry, who also went by Donna Dalton, had been charged with soliciting in July, court records show.
Chief Jacobs suspended the 20-member vice unit’s operations in early September for a department review, saying, “We do not tolerate bad cops here and if we’ve got the evidence to prove that they are, I think our record shows that we will address that bad behavior.”
On Wednesday, the FBI searched Mitchell’s home relating to a citizen complaint lodged against him one week before the Castleberry shooting, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Mitchell, a 30-year veteran of the force who’s been relieved of duty, was in an unmarked police vehicle and had a conversation with Castleberry before the deadly encounter. A message left for Mitchell on his cellphone wasn’t returned.
Castleberry’s sister, Bobbi McCalla, launched a petition demanding an independent investigation into her death.
“Donna may have been leading a less than ideal lifestyle, but she was still a human being,” McCalla wrote. “Prior to this incident, Donna has only two things on her record; a failure to register her dog and a solicitation charge from the end of July. Donna is not a career criminal that some of the media is making her out to be. She was a mother of two beautiful girls, a daughter, a sister and a friend to many.”
“The silence that the police department is giving us has caused us to take to social media to find answers,” McCalla added. “I have 16 different people with their own stories that have come forward to tell us that Andrew Mitchell is who we think he is.”
According to 10TV News in Columbus, Mitchell is an alleged slumlord who rents his properties to known felons.
Some of his buildings were considered “nuisance properties” by Clinton Township, and 10TV News reported police were often called to them.
McCalla claimed that people told her Mitchell propositioned women for sex in lieu of paying rent. “Donna was likely not killed for anything she did, but was instead killed for something she knew,” McCalla wrote.
“Donna did not deserve or need to have eight bullets put in her,” McCalla added. “She was trapped in that car and had nowhere to go. She was not just another ‘prostitute.’ She has an army standing behind her and we will not stop until we get answers.”
Messages left for Castleberry’s family weren’t returned by press time.
Columbus police spokeswoman Denise Alex-Bouzounis told The Daily Beast that Mitchell is a landlord but that the department cannot comment on any allegations against him because of a pending internal affairs investigation.
Alex-Bouzounis said Mitchell is on desk duty and “his gun and his badge were taken.”
“Everything’s going to the FBI tip line. If anyone has any concerns regarding any vice officer, that’s where it needs to go,” she said. “It’s out of Columbus police’s hands.”