Two male suspects in their late twenties were arraigned in Boston this morning in relation to their role in the Turner Broadcasting Aqua Teen Hunger Squad promotion gone awry. The suspect were hired to work for Turner by a third party company based in New York. They are being charged with placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct.
One of the suspects is Peter Berdovsky, 27, who posted pictures of himself on his website that show him setting up the devices in different parts of the city.
Turner said Wednesday it was behind mysterious packages that caused a terrorism scare in Boston. The campaign, which included battery operated light boards placed in public areas and under bridges, sparked such a scare that bridges were shut down and streets were closed yesterday for several hours.
CNN reported a statement from co-owned Turner taking responsibility and saying it was part of a marketing campaign for its Adult Swim cartoon block.
Turner in its statement said: "The “packages” in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger. They are part of an outdoor marketing campaign in 10 cities in support of Adult Swim’s animated television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. They have been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards [Turner's description of the planted packages]. We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger.Calling it an active investigation, Edward Davis, Boston Police Commissioner, would only say there were no indications it was a terrorist act."
Turner Broadcasting Chairman and CEO Phil Kent added: "We apologize to the citizens of Boston that part of a marketing campaign was mistaken for a public danger.
"We appreciate the gravity of this situation and, like any responsible company would, are putting all necessary resources toward understanding the facts surrounding it as quickly as possible.
"As soon as we realized that an element of the campaign was being mistaken for something potentially dangerous, appropriate law enforcement officials were notified and through Federal law enforcement channels, we identified the specific locations of the advertisements in all 10 cities in which they are posted.
"We also directed the third-party marketing firm who posted the advertisements to take them down immediately. We appreciate the commitment demonstrated by the Boston police department and other law enforcement agencies, as well as the Massachusetts Governor’s Office, and deeply regret the hardships experienced as a result of this incident."
Reporting on suspicious packages found around Boston on Wednesday, CNN had first reported that the devices appeared to be a real threat, then eventually said that they appeared to be a hoax, and one anchor even speculated it might even be a "publicity stunt for a cartoon show."
CNN's speculation came after the network reported that one of the packages contained a black board with pegs and a cartoon character that resembled one of the Mooninite Marauder characters from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoon show. Initial reports had been that it resembled Nickelodeon's SpongeBob Squarepants.
Prank or not, it was being taken very seriously by police and Homeland Security. "Two to five years for each infraction," said the mayor of Boston. "We're not playing around."
"Hoaxes put an enormous burden on law enforcement and counterterrorism officials at all levels," said Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke, "and in a post-9/11 world there is absolutely no place for hoaxes." He would not comment on any possible repercussions. "I'm not going to get into an discussion at this time about consequences," he said.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told CNN Wednesday he is willing to take "any and all action" against Turner to recover the cost of the city’s partial shut-down.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer led the 5 p.m. news cycle by calling it a "promotion gone wrong" and a "massive, massive, misunderstanding."
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) said he would investigate. “This marketing stunt created chaos in Boston and wasted taxpayer money by tying up valuable resources," he said in a statement to B&C. "I intend to look into this issue and work with both federal and local law enforcement to determine how it happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.”
Rep. Ed Markey, also of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, was even more exercised."Scaring an entire region, tying up the T and major roadways, and forcing first responders to spend 12 hours chasing down trinkets instead of terrorists is marketing run amok," said Marky. "It would be hard to dream up a more appalling publicity stunt. Whoever thought this up needs to find another job."