Sheriff's 'Wheel of Fugitive' Earns Him a Lawsuit

David Gay says he wasn't a fugitive in Brevard County when featured on video
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2023 7:47 AM CST

In hundreds of videos shared on social media, Brevard County, Florida, Sheriff Wayne Ivey spins the "Wheel of Fugitive" decorated with 10 names and faces. The wheel chooses the "fugitive of the week," whose case Ivey highlights. The goal is to have the fugitive turn themselves in or, alternatively, have someone else reveal their location, per the Washington Post. "It has worked almost to perfection," Ivey told Florida Today in 2017. But David Gay disputes that. In a defamation lawsuit, Gay alleges he was featured on the wheel multiple times, and lost his job as a result, though he was not a fugitive at all.

Gay—seeking more than $50,000 in damages, per CBS News—was on probation when he was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic battery on Dec. 20, 2020. Days later, his probation officer requested Gay be arrested for probation violation. According to the suit, officers arrested Gay on Jan. 25, 2021, though the domestic battery case had been dismissed almost a week earlier. Gay alleges he was featured on "Wheel of Fugitive" on Jan. 26, Feb. 2, and Feb. 9, though he spent all of those days in jail. He says he was also featured on a Feb. 23 episode, though he'd been "lawfully released" the previous day.

A message displayed in the episodes notes subjects "had outstanding warrants in effect at the time this episode was filmed," though they "may have since been arrested or the alleged charges otherwise resolved or dismissed." But almost a third of people featured in 45 episodes weren't fugitives, according to a 2021 Florida Today investigation. It found many were already in jail, out on bond, or had completed their sentences. Gay says he lost his job when his boss saw his face on the wheel. He also says he lived in fear of harassment from the public and police. As his attorney says, per the Post, "No one has the right to cause compliant citizens to lose their jobs or live in fear of confrontation or arrest; not even the sheriff." (Read more defamation stories.)

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