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Company chief begins jail term for perjury

Michael J. Dunn, the man accused of perjuring himself during an investigation of a May 2004 accidental shooting, has started serving a 15-day jail term.

The State Attorney's Office accused Dunn of giving false information concerning safety techniques used in a training course. He gave the information to a Citrus County sheriff's detective and to a special agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, both of whom were investigating an accidental shooting that occurred during a training exercise for state wildlife officers.

In a sworn statement to investigators, Dunn said he never shot over students' heads or at their feet _ a statement he knew to be false, prosecutors said.

Dunn, 43, led a North Carolina company, Leadership Management Services, that hired the man who was shot during the exercise.

Dec. 2, County Judge Mark Yerman convicted Dunn and sentenced him to serve 15 days of jail time on weekends. He started serving the sentence Jan. 1.

The sentence also requires Dunn to take a firearms safety course, pay $800 in fines, serve one year of probation and perform 50 hours of community service, court records showed. He was barred from teaching firearm safety courses in Florida and must write a 50-word letter of apology to the investigators, the records showed.

Dunn, who listed his address as Jacksonville in court documents, pleaded no contest. The judge adjudicated him guilty of commiting perjury outside of an official proceeding and culpable negligence with exposure to harm, according to records.

Dunn's company hired Eric C. Verhille, a Marine who served as a freelance instructor at the Withlacoochee Technical Institute's firing range and training area in Lecanto.

Verhille was shot during a training session for officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Special Operations Group. A dozen officers were working on a building clearing exercise and, according to a Citrus County Sheriff's Office report, one of the officers mistook Verhille for a target.

Verhille had been photographing a training session involving live ammunition when the shooting occurred.

In a May interview with the Citrus Times, FDLE field specialist Donna Suereth, who was involved with the agency's investigation into the training program at the firing range that day, said some safety issues were discovered during the investigation. Dunn perjured himself about those safety issues, she told the Times.

She also said Dunn was deviating from the training program.

Verhille was hospitalized and then released a little more than two weeks after the shooting.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 860-7312 or vansicklesptimes.com.

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