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Two held after ad campaign triggers Boston bomb scare

Story Highlights

• Second man arrested, attorney general says
• Turner Broadcasting CEO issues apology for panic
• Packages were promotion for Adult Swim show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force"
• Devices included a light board that displayed a character on the show
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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Authorities have arrested two men in connection with electronic light boards depicting a middle-finger-waving moon man that triggered repeated bomb scares around Boston on Wednesday and prompted the closure of bridges and a stretch of the Charles River.

Meanwhile, police and prosecutors vented their anger at Turner Broadcasting System Inc., the parent company of CNN, which said the battery-operated light boards were aimed at promoting the late-night Adult Swim cartoon "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."

Boston officials condemned Turner for not taking proper steps to end the bomb scares earlier and for not issuing an adequate apology to the city. (Watch how the scare unfolded Video)

Turner Broadcasting said in written statements the devices had been placed around Boston and nine other cities in recent weeks as part of a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote the show.

"We apologize to the citizens of Boston that part of a marketing campaign was mistaken for a public danger," Phil Kent, CEO and chairman of Turner Broadcasting System Inc., said in one of two statements issued by the company.

"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."

Peter Berdovsky, 27, a freelance video artist from Arlington, Massachusetts, and Sean Stevens, 28, were facing charges of placing a hoax device in a way that results in panic, as well as one count of disorderly conduct, said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. The hoax charge is a felony, she said. Both men were arrested Wednesday evening.

According to his Web site, Berdovsky is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and a founding member of a video artists group called Glitch who goes by the nickname "Zebbler" and sings in a band called "Superfiction."

Authorities believe Berdovsky was "in the employ of other individuals" as part of the marketing campaign, Coakley said. "How exactly this was executed, we are still investigating." Berdovsky is scheduled for arraignment at 9 a.m. Thursday in Charlestown District Court.

Adult Swim shares channel space with Cartoon Network, another Turner enterprise, but the adult-themed network is a separate entity.

Wednesday evening, Cartoon Network was running a statement during commercial breaks, expressing deep regret for "the hardships experienced as a result of this incident."

The devices displayed a "Mooninite" -- an outer-space delinquent who makes frequent appearances on the cartoon -- greeting passersby with an upraised middle finger. But the discovery of nine of the light boards around Boston and its suburbs sent bomb squads scrambling throughout the day, snarling traffic and mass transit in one of the largest U.S. cities.

"It had a very sinister appearance," Coakley told reporters. "It had a battery behind it, and wires."

The statement from Kent said Turner Broadcasting deeply regrets "the hardships experienced as a result of this incident." (Read the full statement)

Mayor calls situation 'outrageous'

But Coakley, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and others said the statement offering an apology was not enough, and did not rule out criminal charges or a civil suit to recover the estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars it cost the city to respond to the bomb scares.

Menino told reporters he received a call from a Turner spokesperson about 9 p.m. but had not yet returned it. "I think the city deserves a call, not from a press person, but from somebody in the corporate structure of Turner," he said.

"I just think this is outrageous, what they've done ... It's all about corporate greed."

He and Coakley said Turner did not give authorities the locations of the devices and said they learned the devices were Turner's when the company sent a fax to City Hall at 5 p.m.

Officials believe there are 38 throughout the Boston area, and 14 had been recovered as of 9 p.m., Coakley said. "We heard nothing official from the people who could have resolved this earlier."

Some of the devices were placed on private property, she said, which "raises a lot of questions about, at the very least, the responsibility of anybody who would do this."

Asked about whether Massachusetts authorities would have the jurisdiction to arrest people out of state, Coakley said she believed they would if the offenses took place in Massachusetts. Turner Broadcasting's headquarters is in Atlanta, Georgia.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis called it "unconscionable" that the marketing campaign was executed in a post 9/11 era. "It's a foolish prank on the part of Turner Broadcasting," he said. "In the environment nowadays ... we really have to look at the motivation of the company here and why this happened."

Earlier, Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll called Wednesday's incidents "a colossal waste of money."

The discovery of the light boards led state, local and federal authorities to close the Boston University and Longfellow Bridges and block boat traffic from the Charles River to Boston Harbor. In addition, the Pentagon said U.S. Northern Command was monitoring the situation from its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but said none of its units were dispatched to assist.

The first device reported was at the Sullivan Square commuter rail station, near the suburb of Somerville, Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon, four other devices were reported -- near the Longfellow and Boston University bridges over the Charles, at New England Medical Center and near the intersection of Stuart and Columbus avenues in the city itself, and four more turned up over the course of the day.

Rep. Ed Markey, a Boston-area congressman, said, "Whoever thought this up needs to find another job."

"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," Markey, a Democrat, said in a written statement. "It would be hard to dream up a more appalling publicity stunt."

Turner Broadcasting said the devices had been in place for two to three weeks in Boston; New York; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; San Francisco, California; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A Turner source said the displays were a component of a third-party advertising campaign conducted by a New York advertising firm, Interference Inc., which had no comment on the incident.

CNN's Dan Lothian and Deborah Feyerick contributed to this report.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley holds photos showing locations where two of the devices were found.




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