PHOENIX (CN) - Sheriff Joe Arpaio agreed not to pursue criminal charges against a felon in exchange for 3,000 counterfeit posters of a photo of the American flag from the World Trade Center raised during the 2001 World Series, the photographer claims in court.
Photographer David Kelly sued Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Federal Court on Friday on a copyright claims.
Kelly says attended the opening game of the 2001 World Series on Oct. 27, 2001 in Phoenix. Before the first pitch, he photographed the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees lined up on the diamond while the Phoenix Fire Department raised "the tattered American flag from the World Trade Center" and a massive American flag was held in the background.
Kelly registered the photograph with the U.S. Copyright Office, titling it "Remembering September 11th, 2001," the lawsuit states.
In September 2002, Kelly says, he met Raymond Young, who represented himself "as an upstanding, former Major League Baseball player who knew a lot of people and had many connections in professional baseball and among sports memorabilia dealers." Unbeknownst to Kelly, Young had served time in the Arizona Department of Corrections on forgery charges in the 1990s, the lawsuit claims.
Kelly and his company, Big League Photos, agreed to allow Young "to serve as a sales agent for Big League Photos with respect to the wholesale distribution of posters bearing the image of the copyrighted photograph," the complaint states. Big League Photos was to retain exclusive rights to the worldwide distribution of the posters and the responsibility to print and ship the posters.
According to Kelly, Young quickly produced a business card that misrepresented himself as the owner of Big League Photos, which he used "to deceive several copying companies to mass produce ... in excess of 300,000 counterfeit copies of the copyrighted posters."
Young then "commenced to orchestrate a colossal scheme of distributing, for financial gain and at the plaintiff's expense, massive amounts of the counterfeit copyrighted posters to over 100 vendors throughout the country - vendors who in turn made millions of dollars exploiting plaintiff's intellectual property," the lawsuit states.
Kelly sued Young for breach of contract, fraud and breach of copyright in 2006 in Maricopa County Court, and won a $1.125 million judgment, according to the new lawsuit against Arpaio.
Kelly says he contacted the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in 2003 about Young's actions, Arpaio and his office refused to investigate his claims.
He says Kelly learned later that Arpaio and Young met sometime in 2012 and discussed Kelly's claims against Young. Arpaio agreed not to arrest Young for his actions against Kelly if Young donated 3,000 copies of the posters to the Sheriff's Office, according to the lawsuit.
A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office declined to comment.
Kelly says he believes Arpaio and Kelly had this discussion, because there is a photograph of Young and Arpaio, "in which the two men are holding a copy of one of the counterfeit copyrighted posters."
The photograph has a caption stating: "Ray and Sheriff Joe pose for Ray's donation of 3,000 posters to Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. Limited edition print of the 9/11 tribute at Diamondback Stadium that Ray owned the copyright," according to the complaint.
On Jan. 25, 2013, Kelly says he "had a chance meeting" with Arpaio in Phoenix, and spoke with him about the posters. According to the complaint, Arpaio admitted having sold the posters and recalled that Kelly had "contacted his office and had spoken with his deputies and his secretary about the criminal activity perpetrated against him" by Young. Arpaio promised Kelly he would "make it up to you somehow," Kelly says.
In November 2014, a sheriff's deputy told Kelly that the Sheriff's Office sold the copies of the posters at charity auctions, and that it made money from the sales, the lawsuit states.
Kelly seeks general, special, actual and statutory damages for copyright infringement.
His attorney, LaShawn Jenkins, did not respond to a request for comment.