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From the City & Region staff at The Boston Globe

Community service for defendants in Cartoon Network case

Email|Print| Text size + By the Boston Globe City & Region Desk
May 11, 07 02:30 PM

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(George Rizer/Globe Staff)

Peter Berdovsky (left) and Sean Stevens both read prepared statements today in Charlestown Municipal Court.

By Brian R. Ballou and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff

Two men apologized in court today as prosecutors dropped criminal charges against them for carrying out a guerrilla marketing campaign in January that triggered a wave of bomb scares.

As a part of a plea deal, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens performed community service at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where they designed a mural and helped with maintenance on the facility's sailing docks on the Charles River. After Berdovsky worked for 80 hours and Stevens for 60 hours, prosecutors agreed not to pursue charges that could have carried a sentence of up to five years in prison.

"Based upon the defendants' apologies and acceptance of responsibility for their actions in January and the attendant consequences, as well as the positive and substantial efforts at restorative justice made by both men through their community service, we believe that this was the most appropriate resolution to this case," Attorney General Martha Coakley said today in a statement.

In Charlestown Municipal Court this morning, both men read short statements, which can be found here and here.

"I deeply regret that this incident caused such anguish and disruption for so many people," Berdovsky said.

Stevens added: "I would not have placed the signs ... had I not believed that my employer had done what was needed to make it fully legal."

"In the end," Stevens concluded, "I simply felt this was an opportunity to provide harmless enjoyment to many people while earning a small amount of money to create my own art to share with communities I'm a part of."

Berdovsky, 27, and Stevens, 28, appeared calm and contrite, a stark change from their first appearance in February, when the two men mocked the media with a performance-art skit about the evolution of haircuts.

They told investigators they were to be paid $300 each to install battery powered light boards in 40 high visibility spots in and around Boston, such as buildings and bridges, as part of an advertising campaign for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," an animated program on Cartoon Network. The blinking lights triggered regionwide bomb scares on Jan. 31.

The men had been charged with placing a hoax device in a way that causes panic, which carried a maximum of five years imprisonment, and a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.

Berdovsky and Stevens were hired by Interference Inc., a New York marketing company retained by Turner Broadcasting System, which owns the Cartoon Network. The companies apologized for the stunt and paid $2 million in restitution to local governments and law enforcement agencies.

During the fallout in February, Jim Samples resigned as general manager of the Cartoon Network. He had approved the botched marketing campaign.

"Today's hearing in Charlestown hopefully marks the conclusion of the fallout from Cartoon Network’s guerrilla marketing campaign," Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement. "I hope the message goes out to all guerrilla marketers who plan on doing business in Boston that we take the public safety of those who live and work here very seriously."

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