Former Columbus vice officer sentenced for planting cocaine on gentlemen's club owner

A former Columbus police vice officer was sentenced in federal court to 18 months in prison Thursday for conspiring to violate a man's constitutional rights by framing an owner of a gentlemen's club for cocaine possession in 2018.

A federal jury in Columbus convicted Steven G. Rosser, 46, of Delaware, in February while acquitting fellow vice officer Whitney Lancaster, 59. The jury found Rosser guilty of one rights violation while finding him not guilty on another count of conspiring to violate an individual's constitutional rights in another incident.

U.S. District Court Judge Sarah D. Morrison handed down the sentence in Columbus Thursday. Morrison could have given Rosser a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. In their sentencing memo, prosecutors requested 27 months to 33 months in prison.

According to court documents, the offense involved The Doll House gentlemen's club on the East Side and a search of one of the owners, Armen Stipanyian.

Court records state Rosser went to the club in April 2018 with other Columbus police vice officers. While in the office area, Rosser alleged he found cocaine residue on a desk and took Stipanyian into custody.

Officers searched Stipanyian and his vehicle without permission or a warrant, according to court records.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Columbus said in a release that a minuscule amount of cocaine, about .017 grams, had been planted in Stipanyian's office. After the fraudulent arrest, Rosser falsified documentation to conceal the conspiracy, according to court documents.

Rosser was indicted by a federal grand jury and arrested in March 2020.

Rosser and Lancaster had been charged following an FBI investigation that came about because of the July 11, 2018 arrest of adult film star Stormy Daniels following her performance at Sirens Gentlemen's Club on the Northeast Side, along with several other incidents involving the vice unit that same year. (Daniels' birth name was Stephanie Gregory Clifford, but earlier this year legally changed her name to Stormy Daniels Barratt.)

Rosser was fired by the police division and Lancaster retired.

A Columbus police internal affairs investigation determined that the arrest of the porn star was improper, but not politically motivated as a result of lawsuits between her and former President Donald Trump, whom she said paid her $130,000 11 days before the 2016 election to keep quiet about an affair a decade earlier. Trump denied her claim.

The Division of Police ultimately disbanded the vice unit in 2019.


This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Former Columbus officer sentenced to prison for planting cocaine