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Woman Pleads Not Guilty To Falsely Accusing Columbus Vice Officer Of Misconduct

Raymond Wambsgans

A woman has pleaded not guilty to charges of filing a false misconduct report against Columbus Police Vice officer Whitney Lancaster.

Ashley Ward accused Lancaster of having sex with her in exchange for not arresting her in July 2016.

According to court documents, Ward was under police investigation in 2017, during which she made the accusation about Lancaster's behavior. Detectives say they determined through audio recording that Ward's claim was false.

Ward was charged in July last year with one count of making a false report against a peace officer, a first degree misdemeanor. She pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday.

Lancaster, a 31-year veteran of the department, was one of four officers involved in Stormy Daniels' arrest last summer. Lancaster was relievedof duty in December 2018 amid Columbus Police and FBI investigations into the Vice Unit, which are still ongoing. The department shutteredthe Vice Unit in March 2019.

As of now, Lancaster remains on paid suspension.

Timeline: Investigation Of Columbus Police Vice Unit

Ward's accusations were similar to those against former Vice officer Andrew Mitchell, who was charged by federal authorities in March for kidnapping victims under the guide of arrest and forcing them to have sex in exchange for their freedom.

Mitchell, another 31-year veteran, was relieved of duty in September but retiredin "bad standing" after his indictment by a federal grand jury. He pleaded not guilty to all charges, and is currently being held in federal custody.

Meanwhile, Lancaster is also the subject of two federal lawsuits: onefiled by six women who say they were targeted by Lancaster and Vice officer Steve Rosser at a strip club, and anotherfiled by Daniels.

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

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.