Thursday, 4:30 PM
Turner Broadcasting agrees to pay $2 million
By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff
Attorney General Martha Coakley announced this morning that Turner Broadcasting System will pay $2 million in restitution and other compensation for last week's bomb scares that paralyzed parts of the Boston region.
The settlement for the guerrilla marketing campaign that went wrong includes $1 million to reimburse cities for their out-of-pocket expenses for the police response. It also includes about $1 million in "goodwill funds" to be divided among the state, the MBTA, the US Coast Guard, Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville for homeland security awareness and emergency preparedness.
The deal frees Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of the Cartoon Network, and the New York marketing company the Cartoon Network hired, Interference Inc., of any criminal or civil liability for the episode.
At a press conference, Coakley said the $2 million was more than she believed the state would have obtained had it gone to court.
Turner Broadcasting and Interference Inc. also issued a statement accepting responsibility and acknowledging that authorities responded appropriately to the publicity campaign gone awry.
"We understand that in today's post-September 11 environment, it was reasonable and appropriate for citizens and law enforcement officials to take any perceived threat by our light boards very seriously and to respond as they did," the statement says.
Coakley and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the settlement and statement show that police did not overreact.
"So I just have to say the folks who second-guessed us because we did go out there and do our work, shame on them, because it's important that we did it," Menino said.
The battery-powered, lighted electronic boards, depicting a cartoon character making an obscene gesture, promoted the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" show. Nearly 40 of the signs were installed around Boston, including on bridges and overpasses. Bomb squads responded and police shut down highways, subway lines, and the Charles River last Wednesday when people who spotted the signs reported suspicious devices.
Two area men hired by Interference, Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28, each face a felony charge of placing a hoax device in a way that causes panic and a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.
Coakley said that prosecutors have started talking to lawyers for the men about a possible resolution of the criminal charges before trial.