David Gay says he lost his job and was angry after a Florida sheriff said he was a fugitive in social media videos that were made to look like the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. But Gay wasn’t trying to get away from the law any of those times. He was either already in jail for a minor crime or had been let out of jail after getting probation.
Now, Gay is suing for more than $50,000 in damages, saying that the sheriff lied about him and made him feel depressed and anxious for no reason. Brevard county sheriff Wayne Ivey, whose office is close to Orlando, put Gay’s name and picture in several social media posts from his office in 2021.
These posts included videos of him talking about and spinning his so-called “Wheel of Fugitive,” which is a list of wanted people. On the wheel are the pictures and names of the 10 people Ivey thinks are Brevard’s most wanted.
“All 10 people up here have warrants for their arrest,” Ivey says in a Wheel of Fugitive video that his office posted on Facebook on 24 January. “We want to get them off the street and safely behind bars where they can’t victimize anyone else.”
After Ivey spins the wheel, he talks about the charges against the person whose picture is in a close-up shot of the circular prop after it stops spinning. He tells the supposed winner to come to his office, but a disclaimer at the bottom of the video says that “suspects may have been arrested or their alleged charges may have been resolved or dropped since then.”
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Gay’s 34-page lawsuit, which was filed in state court in Brevard County on January 25th, says that the plaintiff fits into the category of “charges otherwise resolved.”
According to the lawsuit, Gay was given a three-year probation sentence in November 2020 for a crime that was not said. The lawsuit says that the end of that case was something called a “withhold of adjudication.” This is a special sentence in which a defendant is not technically convicted of any crime.
Gay says that he was then arrested for misdemeanour domestic battery in January 2021. Gay says he was arrested because he thought his father had fought with his mother physically, but the case against him was later dropped. Even so, the Gay’s probation was broken by the battery charge alone, so he was sent to jail. The lawsuit also says that he was in Ivey’s jail all three times when the sheriff called him a fugitive while being filmed.
When the sheriff put him on the Wheel of Fugitive for the fourth time, Gay had already been sentenced to probation under the same terms as before his arrest in January 2021. He had also been released from jail and was no longer considered wanted.
Gay’s legal problems might not have gotten much attention if he hadn’t been on the Wheel of Fugitive. At one point, his new boss watched at least one of the videos, called Gay as he was driving to what was supposed to be their first day of work together, and told him that he would not start the job after all because he was on the Wheel of Fugitive.
On Tuesday, attempts to get the Brevard sheriff’s office to say something about Gay’s lawsuit didn’t work. Ivey told the Associated Press that Wheel of Fugitive is very popular. According to CBS News, he said that “even the fugitives watch” the videos to see if they’re “fugitive of the week.”
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