BROOKLYN (CN) – A process server sued the makers of the Black Cat Keychain, claiming he was arrested because police told him the keychain could be used as brass knuckles. He also sued the prosecutor in Nassau County, Long Island, where he was arrested – asking for his keychain back.
Nicholas Small sued lead defendant Bud-K Worldwide in Federal Court, claiming it failed to warn him the keychain was illegal to possess in New York.
Bud-K advertises on its website, “This unusual keychain packs a mighty punch! The eyes of the cat become finger holes and the ears become spikes when clutched in the hand to create an excellent means of self-defense against an attacker.”
Small says he bought one online on June 13, 2010. His complaint states that the company had promised New York’s attorney general that it would program its website to display a window stating, “THIS ITEM CANNOT BE SHIPPED TO REQUESTED STATE,” if the purchaser lived in a state where the product was illegal.
But no such window popped up when he placed his order, Small says.
He says he “reasonably” believed the product was legal, and that it was necessary to defend himself in his freelance job as a process server, which includes delivering legal documents such as summonses, complaints and subpoenas to people who may be unhappy to receive them.
“Reasonably believing the ‘Black Cat Keychain’ to be legal to possess in New York, and in furtherance of concerns about his personal safety during the performance of his duties as a process server, plaintiff in or about June 2010 attached the ‘Black Cat Keychain,’ which he had purchased as hereinbefore described, to his keys,” the complaint states.
On Sept. 16, 2010, two Nassau County police officers pulled him over for a traffic violation, found the keychain in his ignition, seized it and arrested him for criminal possession of “metal knuckles,” according to the complaint.
Small says New York does not define what “metal knuckles” are.
“New York Penal Law § 265.01(1) defines possession of ‘metal knuckles’ as a crime, but New York Penal Law § 265.00 fails to define ‘metal knuckles’ although it provides definitions of many other items the possession of which is prohibited under New York Penal Law § 265.01,” the complaint states.
Small says that immediately after he was charged, one of his employers, at a photography studio for public schools, suspended and fired him.
“Although plaintiff sought to, and did, dispose of the New York Penal Law § 265.01 criminal charge as expeditiously as possible in order to be permitted to return to work, Lifetouch National School Studios Inc. has yet to allow plaintiff to return to work,” the complaint states.
Small says he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct.
Small seeks $225,000 in damages from Bud-K Worldwide and its CEO Clint H. Kadel, for false advertising and violations of general business law.
He also seeks a judgment declaring the keychain legal to possess in New York.
He accuses the prosecutors of spoliation of evidence, saying his seized keychain has gone missing.
He is represented by James Maloney.