Thursday, 4:30 PM
Men accused of hoax plead not guilty
By John R. Ellement and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
The two men accused of plunging metropolitan Boston into a panic with illuminated advertisements for a cartoon pleaded not guilty today in a courtroom packed with supporters and a crush of reporters.
The two men smiled broadly throughout much of the brief proceeding as Assistant Attorney General John Grossman described the battery-powered characters as "bomb-like devices." The men, Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28, face charges of placing a hoax device in a way that causes panic and disorderly conduct.
The artists shuffled into Boston Municipal Court in handcuffs. Stevens was particularly animated, grinning at the gallery of about 40 supporters and raising his cuffed hand to give a low wave.
Judge Paul K. Leary seemed skeptical of the state's case, telling Grossman that the law requires that people must intend to create a panic to be charged with placing hoax devices. This case, the judge said, seemed to involve two men who relatives say were paid to place unorthodox advertisements throughout the city.
The question of intent was a legal issue for another hearing, Grossman said. The two men were ordered held on $2,500 cash bail, which they posted early this afternoon.
The prosecutor in court said that although the two suspects may have been acting on directions from an advertising firm, they were still the individuals who put up devices that scared people and tied Boston in knots as police shutdown roads and bridges.
When explosive material teams examined the devices on bridges and underpasses Wednesday, experts thought that the electronic rectangles could have been bombs, Grossman said. The devices had a power source and wires leading to an object wrapped in duct tape. In the end, the duct tape only contained batteries -- but it could have concealed some type of explosive, Grossman said.
Attorney Michael L Rich, a longtime friend who Berdovsky lived with for a decade, represented both men in court.
Outside court, Lorraine Stevens defended her grandson, saying that fears of terrorism in a post Sept. 11th world would have never entered his mind as he posted the cartoon characters throughout the city.
"It would not enter his mind," Lorraine Stevens said. "He just doesn't think that way. He's a total pacifist. If he thought anything would be misconstrued, he wouldn't have done it."