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Man sues Florida sheriff for defamation over "Wheel of Fugitive" videos, claims he lost a job after falsely being called a fugitive

Florida sheriff sued over "Wheel of Fugitive" posts on social media
Florida sheriff sued over "Wheel of Fugitive" posts on social media 00:37

A man has filed a defamation lawsuit against a Florida sheriff who posts weekly "Wheel of Fugitive" videos on social media, saying that he wasn't a fugitive when his name and image appeared several times in 2021 in the sheriff's posts inspired by the long-running TV game show "Wheel of Fortune."

Because of the sheriff's posts, David Gay lost a job and suffered emotional distress, according to the lawsuit seeking more than $50,000 in damages. The lawsuit was filed last week in state court in Brevard County, along Florida's Space Coast.

Gay's prospective boss called him as he was driving to his first day of work and told him not to bother showing up as he had seen Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey's "Wheel of Fugitive" videos, the lawsuit said.

In the videos posted to social media, Ivey spins a wheel with photos of what are described as 10 of the county's most wanted fugitives.

"You know how it works: All 10 people up here have warrants for their arrest," Ivey says in a video posted last week. "We want to get them off the street and safely behind bears where they can't victimize anyone else"

He the spins the wheel and explains the charges against the alleged fugitive who "wins."

Ivey then addresses the alleged fugitive and urges them to "do the right thing" and turn themselves in.

During the video, a disclaimer scrolls across the bottom of the screen, reading in part: "The suspects may have since been arrested or their alleged charges otherwise resolved or dismissed."

A spokesman for the sheriff's office on Monday didn't respond to an emailed inquiry seeking comment about the lawsuit, but Ivey has told the Associated Press that "everybody watches it." 

"Even the fugitives watch it" to see who becomes "fugitive of the week," he said.

Gay was involved in the court system for an undisclosed offense and was sentenced in November 2020 to three years of probation for a withhold of adjudication, a special sentence in which a defendant is not formally convicted of an offense, the lawsuit said.

Gay was taken into custody for violation of probation in January 2021 after he had been arrested several weeks earlier on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge. He says he believed his father had gotten into a physical altercation with his mother, and the case was dismissed eventually.

However, while Gay was in jail for the violation of probation arrest, Ivey said in a "Wheel of Fugitive" video that Gay was a fugitive, when in reality he was already in the Brevard County Jail, according to the lawsuit.

Gay was featured in three more episodes of "Wheel of Fugitive," including on the day after he was sentenced to probation under the same terms that previously had been imposed and was released from custody, the lawsuit said.

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