DANVERS — The former manager of two Danvers gas stations admitted yesterday to cleaning out the safes, which contained nearly $40,000, one morning last September.
But when he learned that a Salem District Court judge planned to send him to jail for six months, he took it back and asked for a trial.
George Erickson, 50, of Danvers had hoped that Judge Sabita Singh would continue his case without a finding for a year and then dismiss it — a disposition typically offered to first-time offenders.
But with a record that includes two prior drunken-driving convictions and other offenses since 1983, prosecutors were seeking jail time and restitution.
"This was a significant theft," prosecutor Jane Prince said. "He abused a relationship of trust with his employer."
Prince noted that Erickson "absconded" with the cash and fled to Maine, where he was arrested.
Defense lawyer Lloyd Walmsley urged leniency for his client, who has been unable to find work since the charges were filed against him last fall. Walmsley also said Erickson was "very remorseful."
"If he could do it over again, believe me, he would," the lawyer said, then after a pause, added "not do that."
Walmsley said Erickson had significant gambling debts at the time that he took the money.
Singh said she would impose a two-year jail sentence, with all but six months suspended, and two years of supervised probation, with restitution.
In Massachusetts, when a defendant offers to resolve a case before trial but is unhappy with the judge's sentence, he can withdraw that plea and ask for a trial.
Erickson did just that, and a trial was scheduled for next month.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or email@example.com.