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Former Kahoots Dancers Sue Columbus Vice Officers

Six former workers at Kahoots strip club in northwest Columbus say they were unjustly arrested by Columbus Police Vice officers.
Adora Namigadde
/
WOSU
Six former workers at Kahoots strip club in northwest Columbus say they were unjustly arrested by Columbus Police Vice officers.

Six former workers at Kahoots strip club in northwest Columbus have filed a federal lawsuit against two Columbus Police Vice officers, saying they were unjustly arrested.

Lawyers say the six women were targeted by Vice Unit officers Steven Rosser and Whitney Lancaster. Both men were relieved of field duty last year and now work on desk duty, the result of an internal investigation into Vice Unit operations.

Attorney David Goldstein says the officers targeted the women in retaliation after a bouncer was fired from Kahoots. The lawyers say that employee worked as Rosser's informant.

“When Kahoots was not hiring that individual back as quickly as Detective Rosser wanted to, that him and Detective Lancaster seemed to target my clients and charge them with basically a certain criminal offense which  is a misdemeanor,” Goldstein says.

Each woman in the lawsuit says she was charged under the "Community Defense Act," a state law that bars non-related persons from touching workers in sexually oriented environments. Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein deemed this law unenforceable after dropping charges against Stormy Daniels and two Sirens employees last July.

Timeline: Investigation Of Columbus Police Vice Unit

According to the lawsuit, the bouncer was hired again in December 2017. Five of the six women were charged before his rehiring.

Goldstein says the women's arrests also served as a retaliation against the club itself. According to Goldstein, the women had never faced criminal charges before.

“They had to go through the system, hire attorneys, and eventually the charges were dismissed,” Goldstein says. “It's our belief that these two officers obviously violated our clients' constitutional rights and harassed them to either try to force Kahoots to hire the manager back or to try to close the business down and did not have any legal justification to do so.”

The lawsuit was filed April 16 in U.S. District Court, and is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Earlier this year, Daniels filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Lancaster, Rosser and two other Vice officers, claiming her arrest was the result of a "political vendetta." An internal Columbus Police investigation found that Daniels' arrest was improper but not pre-planned or politically motivated.

Separate lawsuits filed by the two women arrested with Daniels were settled by Columbus City Council in January.

The Vice Unit was eliminated in March after several months of suspended operations. It's still currently the subject of internal and FBI investigations.

Columbus Police declined to comment.

If you have information to share about the Vice Unit, contact WOSU at adora@wosu.org.