Florida sheriff sued for libel on ‘Wheel of Fugitive’ game show
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — A man falsely included in several episodes of a Florida sheriff’s popular social media game show “Wheel of Fugitive” is suing the sheriff for defamation, claiming the experience cost him a job and had an impact on his mental health.
David Austin Gay was not a fugitive when his picture appeared in four episodes of the show between January and February 2021. Instead, he was either in jail after committing a probation violation, or, in one case, already legally released.
A 2021 investigation by Florida Today, part of the USA TODAY Network, found that Gay was one of 60 ‘fugitives’ Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey had appeared on the wheel across 45 episodes between February 2020 and February 2021 who were either in jail at the time the episode aired, already free, or did not have an active arrest warrant.
In a Brevard court filing on Wednesday, a lawyer for Gay argued he was fired from a new job after his boss saw an episode of the show featuring Gay’s photo.
“As he was on his way to his first day on the job, his new employer informed him by phone not to bother to show up because he had seen MR GAY in IVEY and/or the ‘Wheel of Fugitive’ videos “from BCSO,” wrote Brevard’s attorney, Jessica Travis. the complaint.
‘WHEEL OF THE FUGITIVE’: Florida Sheriff Who Hosts ‘Wheel of Fugitive’ Features People Who Aren’t Fugitives
FLORIDA TODAY SURVEY:How Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey’s ‘Fugitive’s Wheel’ Began
Travis argued in the filing that the incident also damaged Gay’s mental health, causing depression and anxiety, and damaged his reputation “resulting in him being viewed with contempt, contempt, ridicule and lack of of respect that will continue for the foreseeable future,” according to the complaint.
Gay is seeking unspecified damages in this case, including for loss of income and for pain and suffering.
“The lawsuit was filed because right is right and wrong is wrong,” Travis said in a statement Friday. “No one has the right to have docile citizens lose their jobs or live in fear of confrontation or arrest; not even the sheriff.”
A spokesperson for Ivey did not immediately return a request for comment.
Gay spoke to reporters in 2021 for the original Florida Today investigation, calling the experience “humiliating.”
“Something has to be done about it,” Gay said at the time. “(The Sheriff) should probably check everything out before showing the whole world talking, telling everyone the fugitives when they’re not.”
On three of the dates that episodes featuring Gay’s picture aired, Gay was in police custody after voluntarily surrendering for violating probation on a prior felony battery charge from 2018. arbitration was suspended in the case.
A separate misdemeanor domestic violence charge that led to the breach in December 2020 was dismissed.
Ivey’s “Wheel of Fugitive” has been praised by fans as a creative and entertaining way to engage the community. It also had its share of critics, who argued that the show’s format was dehumanizing, a waste of taxpayers’ money, and a distraction from real law enforcement efforts.
The show garnered national attention from Ivey, making headlines across the country and ridiculing late night talk show hosts, including Trevor Noah of The Daily Show, who derided the show in a December 2016 episode of the Comedy Central program.