Lehigh Valley

#PSPSTRONG sign sparks lawsuit

When best intentions collide.

When Nolan Kemmerer heard Corporal Seth Kelly was shot in the line of duty in November 2017, the volunteer firefighter and owner of Rapid Wraps N' Signs created a special sign.

"It was just a very kind of personal thing for him," says attorney Andrew Bench.

His custom yard sign had an American flag, a thin blue line, and a phrase - #PSP Strong.

Nolan says he raised $19,000 and donated everything but the cost of making the signs, to the Kelly family.

Then came a phone call.

"When someone uses our name to fundraise, it makes for a fuzzy gray area," begins Danielle Petros.

Petros is the president of a non-profit called PSP Strong. They were formed in 2015, shortly after the Eric Frein manhunt left two troopers shot.

The group raises money for police families.

Petros says she loves what Kemmerer did, but said her organization can't have its name on something they don't control.

"Anything that's raised under the name PSP Strong has to be reported on our taxes and our filing to the IRS," says Petros.

Kemmerer's attorney says his client was blindsided.

"It was out of left field, he'd never heard of the PSP Strong association before," Bench says.

Kemmerer stopped making the signs, but PSP Strong asked for more - they wanted him to sign something saying he wouldn't use that phrase again.

That's where Nolan drew the line. He said his word should be enough.

"He believed it was OK to use the #pspstrong. He did so without any ill intent in his heart and he doesn't want to be pushed around by them," Bench explains.

Petros doesn't see it that way. She believes they have to protect what the non-profit has built - and that means filing a $50,000 lawsuit.

"We've got to take our emotion out of that. Hey - he's a nice guy and he's doing a great thing and that's wonderful, but he told us twice he wasn't going to stop," says Petros, adding," We felt like we were being attacked and we had to protect our organization."

Both sides agree on one thing - they say it's a shame it's come to this.

Bench says, "Nolan's a really good guy. He did this out of the goodness of his heart and he doesn't deserve this. I took the lawsuit on a virtually pro bono basis because I don't believe he should be treated like this."

Danielle adds, "This whole thing was born out of support for state police after the Frein manhunt. And the sign, that was so much support for Cpl. Kelly! It's a good thing, and now it's like - it leaves a black eye on everything, and I really - I hate that, you know?"

"I guess what I would say to that is, they didn't have to bring a lawsuit, he agreed to stop making the signs, he agreed not to sell any more signs, he acceded to their demands. They're the ones that brought a lawsuit," Bench says.

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