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Turner, 2nd firm to pay $2 million over scare

Cartoon Network was promoting show with signs that caused Boston alert

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Supporters of Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky hold signs outside court in Charlestown, Mass., on Thursday. The two, paid to hang electronic signs, were arrested in a marketing campaign to advertise a TV cartoon that went awry.
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updated 12:38 p.m. ET Feb. 5, 2007

BOSTON - Turner Broadcasting Systems and Interference Inc. have agreed to pay $2 million for a Cartoon Network advertising campaign that caused a widespread bomb scare, the attorney general said Monday.

The agreement with several state and local agencies resolves any potential civil or criminal claims against the companies, said Attorney General Martha Coakley.

More than three dozen blinking electronic signs with a boxy cartoon character giving an obscene hand gesture were found Wednesday in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville. The signs, part of a publicity campaign for Cartoon Network’s “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” also appeared in nine other big U.S. cities in recent weeks, with little interest.

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But in Boston, bomb squads responded to reports of the devices in a subway station, on bridges and elsewhere.

As part of the settlement, $1 million will be used to reimburse the agencies and $1 million will be used to fund homeland security and other programs. Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc., and Interference Inc. also will issue a public statement accepting full responsibility and apologizing for the incident.

“Last week’s events caused a major disruption in the greater Boston area on many levels — crippling public transportation, causing serious traffic problems, negatively affecting local businesses and perhaps most significantly, costing Boston and surrounding communities thousands of dollars,” Coakley said.

Turner released a statement again taking responsibility for the “unconventional marketing tactic” and apologizing for hardships caused to Boston-area residents.

“We understand now that in today’s post-Sept. 11 environment, it was reasonable and appropriate for citizens and law enforcement officials to take any perceived threat posed by our light boards very seriously and to respond as they did,” the statement said.

The company said it was reviewing its policies concerning local marketing efforts and strategies to ensure that they are not disruptive or perceived as threatening.

Authorities say two men were paid to hang the signs around the city. Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28, have pleaded not guilty to placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct.

Coakley said prosecutors were in discussions with the men’s attorneys to resolve the charges before a trial.

© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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