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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Weirsdale man arrested after threatening Marion County Commissioner during meeting

A 51-year-old Weirsdale man was arrested during Tuesday’s meeting of the Marion County Board of County Commissioners after making threats towards a commissioner regarding the prior confiscation of his shotgun.

On Tuesday, October 5, a deputy with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office responded to the McPherson Governmental Complex in reference to a disturbance during the regular meeting of the Board of Marion County Commissioners.

Upon arrival at the complex, which is located at 601 SE 25th Avenue in Ocala, a deputy made contact with James Thomas Otto. Officials and witnesses say Otto was allegedly making threats against an elected official and preventing the meeting from concluding, according to an MCSO report.

Middleburg man arrested after threatening elected official during meeting
James Thomas Otto

After being warned not to speak, Otto allegedly told Commissioner Kathy Bryant that he had gone to court and “got his gun back,” according to the report. Otto then allegedly pointed to Bryant and repeated the phrase, “You’re out of here,” a total of three times.

According to the report, Bryant felt threatened and left the meeting before Chairman Jeff Gold ordered Otto to leave.

The report states that Otto continued to disrupt the meeting until an off-duty officer that happened to be in attendance approached Otto and placed him into custody.

The off-duty officer noted Otto’s speech was slurred, and after he was questioned, Otto advised that he had consumed three beers.

Otto is currently on pre-trial release after he was arrested on April 7 for allegedly driving with a suspended license, possession of cannabis, and possession of a firearm by a felon.

As part of his arrest on April 7, Otto’s shotgun was seized and has remained in the custody of MCSO. He has allegedly approached numerous government officials, persons from the clerk of court, and sheriff’s office staff asking that his shotgun be returned to him.

According to the report, Otto has repeatedly blamed Commissioner Bryant on public record regarding the confiscation of his shotgun and it not being returned to him.

The MCSO report states that Otto appeared in court earlier in the day on October 5 and that he was disruptive during the appearance. The State Attorney’s office advised that his case has not been dismissed and that no order has been issued to return his shotgun.

Since Otto is on pre-trial release in another case, he is currently being held without bond until his first appearance hearing.

Due to his alleged threatening behavior, the sheriff’s office recommends that Otto has no further contact with Bryant, that he stays away from the McPherson Government Complex and the Board of County Commissioners, that he does not possess or attempt to possess any firearm or ammunition, that he does not possess or consume alcohol or controlled substances, and that he does not enter any bars, nightclubs, or other similar establishments that sell alcohol.

He faces a slew of additional misdemeanor charges as a result of the incident, including threatening to harm an elected official and breach of the peace.