- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

BOSTON (AP) — Several illuminated electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw the city into a panic yesterday in what turned out to be a publicity campaign for a late-night cable cartoon. Most if not all of the devices depict a character making an offensive gesture.

Peter Berdovsky, 27, of Arlington, Mass., was arrested on one felony charge of placing a hoax device and one charge of disorderly conduct, state Attorney General Martha Coakley said later yesterday. Mr. Berdovsky had been hired to place the devices, she said.

Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River were shut down, and bomb squads were dispatched before authorities declared the devices harmless.

“It’s a hoax — and it’s not funny,” said Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat.

Turner Broadcasting System Inc., parent company of the Cartoon Network, said the devices were part of a promotion for the TV show “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” a surreal series about a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball.

Authorities are investigating whether Turner and any other companies should be criminally charged, Mrs. Coakley said. It wasn’t clear who might have hired Mr. Berdovsky.

Those conducting the campaign should have known the devices could cause panic because they were placed in sensitive areas, she said. Turner did not notify officials of the publicity campaign until about 5 p.m., nearly four hours after the first calls about the devices, she and others said.

At least 14 of the devices were found, Mrs. Coakley said.

“The packages in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger,” Turner said in a statement. It said the devices have been in place for two to three weeks in 10 cities: Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Boston; Chicago; Los Angeles; New York; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; and Seattle.

“We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger,” the company said. As soon as the company realized the problem, it said, law-enforcement officials were told of their locations in all 10 cities.

The marketing firm that installed them, Interference Inc., has been ordered to remove them immediately, said Phil Kent, Turner chairman.

“We apologize to the citizens of Boston that part of a marketing campaign was mistaken for a public danger,” Mr. Kent said. “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.”

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