New York in the 2000s: Beyond the 1974 Ban


In 2000 and 2002, New York’s Attorney General Eliot Spitzer settled civil cases he had brought against two out-of-state suppliers of nunchaku. In his 2002 press release, he stated: “Weapons like these ... have no place on our streets or in our homes.”

One of the conditions of settlement was that the companies had to provide the Attorney General with a list of the names and addresses of all NY customers who had received any of the companies’ “prohibited items” (which included “blackjacks, chuka sticks, slingshots and Kung Fu throwing stars”). The companies then had to mail all those customers notices advising them to turn the “prohibited items” over to the police. These notices further advised the addressees that “law enforcement officials have been provided with a list of consumers who received prohibited items.” Click here to view the form of the “IMPORTANT CONSUMER NOTICE” that the companies were forced to send to all NY purchasers in order to settle the Attorney General’s civil suits.

From 2003 to 2006, another Long Island man was prosecuted for having been in possession of nunchaku in his home. Aramis Sostre lived in a private home in Brentwood, NY, with his wife and children. His wife ran a home-based Avon business; customers frequently visited the house. After observing this activity, police obtained the testimony of a “confidential informant” regarding an alleged drug purchase there, conducted further investigation, and obtained a warrant to search the Sostre home, which they executed by surprise. The January 2003 “raid” by numerous police officers was, according to the federal civil complaint, supplemented by drug-sniffing dogs, but no drugs or drug paraphernalia were ever found. Instead, police discovered a pair of forbidden “chuka sticks” in Mr. Sostre’s closet, and he was charged with misdemeanor possession. It was the only criminal charge lodged against Mr. Sostre, but remained pending for more than three years before its disposition in March 2006 as an ACD (adjournment in contemplation of dismissal).

Already this year (2009), at least one more New Yorker, John Vecchiarello, was prosecuted for having been in possession of nunchaku in his home when police this May found a new pair that he had bought (still wrapped in plastic packaging) sitting atop his safe. As with Mr. Sostre, misdemeanor possession of “chuka sticks” was the only criminal charge lodged against Mr. Vecchiarello. (UPDATE: Another prosecution for simple in-home possession resulted in a conviction in 2013, and has given rise to a new federal case that has been stayed pending the outcome of Maloney v. Rice. Opinion here.)