By Joseph O'Leary
(Reuters) - A Maryland man accused of threatening to shoot up his former workplace and calling himself "a joker", in an apparent reference to last month's shootings in Colorado, was charged on Wednesday with a misdemeanor.
Neil Edwin Prescott was charged with misuse of telephone facilities and equipment, Prince George's County police and prosecutors told a news conference in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $500.
On July 23, a former co-worker of Prescott reported to police that he threatened the lives of the worker and other employees in a phone call.
"I am a joker, I'm gonna load my guns and blow everybody up," Prescott is alleged to have told the former co-worker, according to a search warrant issued to the county police.
"It is clear that the comments made by Prescott reference a recent mass murder which occurred in Colorado within the last several days in which the alleged shooter called himself the Joker, dyed his hair red and shot up a movie theater," the search warrant application said.
An early-morning police search of Prescott's home on Friday found a cache of at least 16 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The guns owned by Prescott were obtained legally, Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said.
The charges against Prescott follow less than two weeks after 12 people were shot dead at a midnight screening of the new "Batman" film in Colorado.
Prescott is being held in the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis under a court-ordered mental evaluation. The warrant for his arrest will be served upon his release, Alsobrooks said.
She added that the state did not have enough evidence for more serious charges, and that Maryland state law does not make it illegal for people to make threats over the telephone.
"It's hard to measure what was prevented, but all the elements were here. We believe a tragedy was averted," Prince George's County police chief Mark Magaw told reporters.
More charges against Prescott may be coming from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Magaw said.
(Reporting By Joseph O'Leary; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay)