The Salem News
— DANVERS — A Peabody man who allegedly threatened to blow up a movie theater inside the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers last summer insisted through his attorney yesterday that the statement was just a joke.
But police and prosecutors aren’t so sure Jorge Aurich was just kidding around. And a judge called the remarks at a minimum a “very, very poor exercise in judgment in making a joke no one found humorous.”
Aurich, 30, pleaded not guilty to a charge of making a bomb threat during his arraignment in Salem District Court yesterday afternoon.
Prosecutor Alex Grimes said that during an exchange with a ticket counter employee at the AMC Loews movie theater back on Aug. 10, Aurich was told he would need identification to purchase tickets to an R-rated movie.
He instead apparently purchased tickets to see “Grown Ups 2,” the Adam Sandler movie filmed partly on the North Shore.
But when the register was open, the clerk later told police, Aurich, who had a T-shirt pulled up over part of his face, demanded “Give me the tens and twenties.” “Are you serious?” the clerk responded.
Aurich allegedly told the clerk that if he didn’t give him the money, he would “blow up the place,” then stuck his hand in his pocket, Grimes told the judge.
The clerk again asked if Aurich was serious.
“No, I was joking,” he said, before asking for a refund, according to the prosecutor.
But if it was a joke, it was, like the Sandler film, a dud. The clerk reported the conversation to management.
Over the next several weeks, police had several interactions with Aurich near the theater, including an incident in which he was allegedly scalping movie tickets. Eventually, the theater — where Aurich had previously worked for 12 years — barred him from the premises, said the prosecutor.
After one of the incidents, the clerk who reported the threat identified Aurich in a photo array and police filed charges.
Aurich also has a pending case involving an allegation of theft from the Hollywood Hits Theater, where he went to work after leaving the AMC. Grimes told the judge that those charges involve thefts of cash from registers. He has pleaded not guilty in that case as well.
Defense lawyer Mark Barry said his client had an abscessed tooth on the day of the incident and had pulled his shirt up over the swollen part of his face.
The remarks, Barry said, were intended as a joke. He also questioned the investigation.
Aurich appeared in court in response to a summons — instead of an arrest — a choice that Judge Robert Brennan questioned after hearing the charge.
But because Aurich had appeared not only yesterday but also on Thursday, when his case was originally scheduled to be arraigned, Brennan said he couldn’t find a legal justification to set bail for the defendant. Unless prosecutors seek a finding that a person is too dangerous to release, an option available only in certain cases, judges are only allowed to consider whether a defendant is likely to flee.
Grimes, who had asked for $2,500 bail, suggested that the seriousness of the charges might lead Aurich to flee.
Brennan did order Aurich to stay away from the Liberty Tree Mall while the case is pending.
A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 18.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.