New season, new criminal charges for 'Jersey Shore' cast
By Wayne Parry
SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. — There's a certain T-shirt hanging on the wall of The Shore Store, a boardwalk clothing shop where cast members of MTV's "Jersey Shore" punch the clock at their day jobs for the show. It reads, "I Love Seaside Heights, New Jersey this time of year!"
With the hit series filming its 6th season here, it's that time of year again in Seaside Heights. And as predictably as the waves crash on the shore, misbehaving cast members are rolling into municipal court with their lawyers and credit cards in tow.
So far this year, one cast member, Deena Cortese, was arrested for allegedly dancing in a roadway in Seaside Heights, slapping passing cars. And housemate Ronnie Ortiz-Magro is accused by a northern New Jersey man of assaulting him during a scuffle at the Bamboo Bar earlier this month.
Add to that a court hearing next week for a friend of Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino. John Manfre, known on the show as "The Unit," was charged with trying to bring drugs into the shore house, according to his lawyer, who is challenging the grounds for the arrest.
Raymond Raya, the attorney who represented Nicola "Snooki" Polizzi in her disorderly conduct arrest in 2010 for annoying beachgoers after having a few cocktails, said this kind of behavior is not exactly alien to Seaside Heights.
"I don't think there's anything happening at these clubs that's any different than what was going on 20 years ago," he said. "They're just filming it now. It's naturally unnatural."
Cortese was arrested June 10 after police said she appeared to be drunk and dancing in the street.
That was the same weekend that a scuffle broke out at Bamboo Bar, a popular nightspot, in which a northern New Jersey man, Justin Viterito, claimed he was assaulted by Ortiz-Magro. Viterito's lawyer, Matthew DiBrino, said his client was buying drinks for Ortiz-Magro and another man when a friend of his was pushed, prompting Viterito to defend his friend. The lawyer said a scuffle ensued during which Viterito was punched by Ortiz-Magro and another man.
MTV spokesman Michael Fabiani declined to comment on the cast members' legal woes, saying only, "MTV does not comment on series in production."
Fans, however, are eating it up. Many viewers of the show who lined up on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights last week, hoping to catch a glimpse of cast members as they worked in the T-shirt shop, said the worse the cast members behave, the more entertaining the show is.
"That's the main reason people watch it," said Marcus Snedeker, 31, of Jackson Township. "The episode where Ronnie knocked the dude out and he was lying in the street, that was one of the best episodes."
He was referring to an episode from the show's first season in which another man was shown taunting Ortiz and other cast members as they walked home, only to be laid out by a single punch from Ortiz-Magro, who boasted, "That's one shot! That's one shot, kid!"
Ortiz-Magro was originally charged with aggravated assault but entered a pre-trial intervention program that let him avoid criminal prosecution.
Kelly Kitchens, a 19-year-old from Roanoke, Va., drove seven hours last week to Seaside Heights to buy a hot-pink T-shirt from cast member Vinny Guadagnino. She is still disturbed by an episode in the show's first season in which a bar customer punched Polizzi during a dispute.
"That was so mean!" she said. "But I loved how everyone rallied around her."
The bar at which the incident occurred sells T-shirts commemorating it, with a crime-scene chalk outline of a woman's prone figure under the words "Snooki Was Here."
The most famous court appearance stemming from the show was Polizzi's in Sept. 2010, in which a municipal court judge sternly lectured her, borrowing from Dean Wormer's speech to Flounder in the movie "Animal House" in which the dean admonished the wayward student that "fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life."
"Rude, profane, obnoxious and self-indulgent is not the way to live your life," Judge Damian G. Murray told Polizzi. "If this was your idea of a good time, it appears your recent celebrity has affected your judgment."
After asking Polizzi whether she had staged the incident for the cameras (she said she had not,) the judge fined her $500 for one count of interfering with the quiet enjoyment of the beach. It was a plea deal negotiated down from a charge of "criminal annoyance of others," but not before a whole round of "Snooki is criminally annoying" jokes was launched.
In her haste the leave the building, Polizzi left the credit card she had used to pay her fine at the court clerk's window, prompting a court employee to chase after her with it before Polizzi sped away in a large SUV.
Raya, who represented Polizzi two years ago, said he doesn't think the production staff encourages cast members to break the law.
"You have these outside actors drawn to the show, girls coming down to Seaside Heights hoping to hook up with the guys on the show, guys coming to Seaside Heights hoping to hook up with the girls on the show," he said. "When you have a combination of large amounts of alcohol along with large amounts of hormones, this stuff is going to happen."
Copyright 2012 Associated Press