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Turner To Pay $2M For Boston Bomb Scare

Attorney General Martha Coakley said Monday that Turner Broadcasting Systems and Interference Inc. have agreed to pay $2 million for a Cartoon Network advertising campaign that caused a widespread bomb scare.

The agreement with several state and local agencies resolves any potential civil or criminal claims against the companies, Coakley said.

More than three dozen blinking electronic signs with a boxy cartoon character giving an obscene hand gesture were found Wednesday in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville. The signs, part of a publicity campaign for Cartoon Network's "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," also appeared in nine other big U.S. cities in recent weeks, with little interest.

But in Boston, bomb squads responded to reports of the devices in a subway station, on bridges and elsewhere.

As part of the settlement, $1 million will be used to reimburse the agencies and $1 million will be used to fund homeland security and other programs.

Mayor Thomas Menino said more than $484,590 of the total will go to the city of Boston, reported CBS Station WBZ-TV. Somerville will get $69,113 and Cambridge will be reimbursed $24,794. $691,126 will go to the State Police and $630,396 to the MBTA. The Coast Guard will be paid $46,136, reported WBZ.

Menino estimated last week that the costs in Boston alone would be more than $500,000. Costs incurred by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, state police and the cities of Cambridge and Somerville could amount to another $500,000, officials said.

"Last week's events caused a major disruption in the greater Boston area on many levels — crippling public transportation, causing serious traffic problems, negatively affecting local businesses and perhaps most significantly, costing Boston and surrounding communities thousands of dollars," Coakley said.

Turner released a statement again taking responsibility for the "unconventional marketing tactic" and apologizing for hardships caused to Boston area residents.

"We understand now that in today's post-Sept. 11 environment, it was reasonable and appropriate for citizens and law enforcement officials to take any perceived threat posed by our light boards very seriously and to respond as they did," the statement said.

The company said it was reviewing its policies concerning local marketing efforts and strategies to ensure that they are not disruptive or perceived as threatening.

Authorities say two men were paid to hang the signs around the city. Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28, have pleaded not guilty to placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct.

Coakley said prosecutors were in discussions with the men's attorneys to resolve the charges before a trial.

Last Friday, Turner Broadcasting System apologized to Boston-area residents for the security scare.

Phil Kent, Turner's chairman and CEO, made the apology in full-page ads in Boston newspapers for "the confusion and inconvenience" caused as highways, bridges and river traffic were shut down in several areas while police checked out the signs, some of which had protruding wires.

"We never intended this outcome and certainly did not set out to perpetrate a hoax. What we did is inadvertently cause a great American city to deal with the unintended impact of this marketing campaign. For this, we are deeply sorry," Kent said.

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