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Columbus Settles Lawsuit With Former Kahoots Dancers

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

The city of Columbus is paying $185,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by six former strip club dancers who claim they were wrongly arrested as retaliation by police.The women who performed at Kahoots, which has since closed, say police targeted them after the club fired Jeremy Sokol, a former club host who doubled as a police informant.

Former Kahoots dancer Carla Hoover helped bring the lawsuit. Speaking to WOSU in 2019, she said the incident ruined her career.

“I cannot work in the city of Columbus because I’ve been blacklisted,” Hoover said. “Which means my name is put out as someone who is not hireable because I fought against the charges that were put on me by (Steven) Rosser and (Whitney) Lancaster.”

Detectives Steven Rosser and Whitney Lancaster have repeatedly declined WOSU’s requests for comment. Columbus Department of Public Safety Director Ned Pettus fired both last month for their role in the 2018 arrest of porn start Stormy Daniels, although both are appealing their firings.

Rosser and Lancaster both worked in the division's Vice Unit, which has since been disbanded.

A former assistant manager who spoke to WOSU on the condition of anonymity said in September 2017, about a week after Kahoots fired Sokol, Rosser met privately with him and the club’s then-general manager to demand they rehire Sokol.

The assistant manager said after they refused, “(Rosser) dropped numerous citations on the club, which hurt a lot of people.”

The citations involved customers touching nude or semi-nude dancers. Officers accused Kahoots dancers of violating a state law called the "Community Defense Act," which Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein now says is unenforceable.

City records show in Columbus, state and city detectives cited five dancers for illegal touching in 2015 and 2016. Then over a six-week span in 2017, undercover Columbus detectives including Rosser and Whitney Lancaster cited Kahoots 19 times.

Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.