DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A man who is better known as the "Naked Cowboy" stands to receive $90,000 to settle a lawsuit he filed against the City of Daytona Beach, following his 2021 arrest for panhandling.
Robert Burck was arrested on March 6, 2021, during Daytona Beach Bike Week for allegedly panhandling, a violation of the city's code, and resisting arrest. He soon filed a lawsuit against the city and two officers alleging improper arrest, and civil rights violations, and challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance.
"People were putting money in my guitar, which just happens. I have a money hole in my guitar, so I don’t have to request it or anything. I simply sing and play and people knowingly -- after many years of doing this -- they come up, take a picture, they just put money in, so when I was told to stop taking money, I was like I’m not really taking it and I continued to work," he told FOX 35 in an interview, wearing his signature undies and guitar.
Commissioners unanimously approved the settlement Wednesday night, a decision recommended by the city's attorney.
In a letter sent to the city earlier, the city's attorney warned that if Burck's case went to trial, the jury may award him a settlement far more than $90,000.
Burck called the victory a strike for free speech.
"It’s freedom of speech, it’s commercial speech, the ability to make money," said Burck in an interview with FOX 35 from his home in New York City. "It may even vindicate people doing even less."
As for locals, their opinions on the matter are varied.
"I don’t think he deserves to win," said Volusia County resident Emily Ray.
"Oh, that’s horrible! That’s unfair. He shouldn’t get nothing to be honest," said Tamika Moore.
FOX 35 also found that it's not his first rodeo when it comes to lawsuits. We found two other lawsuits that were filed in 2008 and 2009. He sued Mars, Incorporated in 2008, which was ultimately dismissed. In 2009, he accused someone of being an imposter. That case was also dismissed.
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"Every law-abiding citizen in Daytona would say, ‘Hey! This is a great thing.' If I want to go out and sing and play guitar and exercise my constitutional right to entertain people and make a living, I can do that too. Thank you, Robert Burck, Naked Cowboy for making sure this type of thing doesn’t go by unchallenged," Burck said.
As for the previous lawsuits, Burcke said: "I’ve been making lots and lots of money my entire life. This is just compensation for mishandling of a situation. Everybody’s all like, ‘ohhh now what are you going to do? Now you’re rich.’ Let’s be realistic, I’ve been rich my whole life."
Even after his arrest, Burck still plans to keep coming back to Daytona Beach.
"I was there this year," Burck said. "I marched up and down main street Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday both weekends, and it was just like always. It was fine, everybody was wonderful, respectful. It’s always been that way. It’s just an anomaly I would say."