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Dunnellon man gets probation for perjury charge

A Dunnellon man will have plenty of time, two years to be exact, to think about the way he answers questions in court. Joel Mark Sturtz, 39, was charged with perjury in an official proceeding for misstating his criminal record to County Judge Gary Graham earlier this year, records showed.

Monday, Graham sentenced him to serve two years' probation, serve 200 hours of community work and pay a $500 fine.

Sturtz was charged with a felony. Graham handled the case because Circuit Judge John Thurman, who typically presides over felony matters, was ill.

Sturtz's trouble started Jan. 22, when he was in Citrus County Court on two misdemeanor charges: possessing alligator meat and possession of a small amount of marijuana, records said.

Before sentencing Sturtz then, Graham asked him if he had been arrested or had worn handcuffs before.

Sturtz said no. But that wasn't the truth.

An officer with the state Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission heard about Sturtz's reply and did some background checks.

He discovered that Sturtz had been arrested previously and handcuffed.

Sturtz explained Monday that he had been in handcuffs before, but that the charge eventually was dropped. That's why he said no to Graham's question, he said.

Also Monday, an 81-year-old man accused of fatally shooting his estranged wife's friend pleaded innocent to a murder charge.

John Schwatka, who was represented by the public defender's office, is accused of killing Nicholas Lapasnick, 55, on May 13 during an argument in Chassahowitzka.

A grand jury indicted him last week on the murder charge.

He is being held in Citrus County Jail without bail.