A Florida man has filed a lawsuit for defamation against a local sheriff after being falsely labeled a fugitive on the department’s popular Facebook show, “Wheel of Fugitive,” caused him to lose his job.
According to the lawsuit, plaintiff David A. Gay claimed he was wrongly featured on Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey’s Facebook spin-off of the gameshow Wheel of Fortune, which features a new fugitive each week.
In court documents, Gay claims his photo was featured on the show four times between January and February in 2021, despite deputies knowing where he was at all times. During one of those times, Gay said he was even sitting in the Brevard County jail.
Gay is suing for $50,000 in damages from the loss of his job and emotional distress.
According to Gay, he was driving to his first day of work when his boss called to tell him not to bother showing up as he had seen the sheriff’s “Wheel of Fugitive” video.
In the videos, Sheriff Ivey — known for his humorous Facebook posts — spins a wheel with photos of the county’s “10 most wanted fugitives.”
“You know how it works: All 10 people up here have warrants for their arrest,” Ivey said in a video posted last week. “We want to get them off the street and safely behind bars where they can’t victimize anyone else.”
When a fugitive is selected after spinning the wheel, Ivey explains their charges and urges them to turn themselves in.
The video also includes a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen, which reads: “The suspects may have since been arrested or their alleged charges otherwise resolved or dismissed.”
Ivey has previously lauded the show as popular. “Everyone watches it,” he told the AP in the past.
“Even the fugitives watch it” to see who becomes “fugitive of the week,” he said.
According to court documents, Gay was initially arrested in 2018 following an undisclosed offense and was sentenced to three years of probation due to a withholding of adjudication (where a person is sentenced to probation without a formal conviction).
Gay was arrested again later that year during a family dispute and was charged with a misdemeanor domestic battery offense. Ultimately, this led to another arrest in January 2021 due to a violation of his probation. It was then that he was featured on Ivey’s “Wheel of Fugitive.”
Court records show that the charges against Gay were ultimately dropped in February 2021 and he was released from custody. The day after his release, Ivey featured Gay on the Facebook show once again for the fourth and final time.
According to Gay’s attorney, the “Wheel of Fugitive” segment featured people who were in jail or had their warrants resolved — and thus were not technically fugitives — 175 times between February 2020 and February 2021.