Feb. 5, 2007 -- One of the two men charged in connection with the advertising campaign that turned into a terror scare was asked to keep quiet as the stunt sent the city of Boston into chaos, according to two fellow artists who provided ABC News with an e-mail from the man supporting their claim.
Two local artists, Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky, were arrested Wednesday night and charged with disorderly conduct and placing a hoax device for allegedly putting about 38 devices containing magnetic lights in the shape of a "mooninite" character from the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim show, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," around the city and surrounding area.
But friends and fellow artists Toshi Hoo and Travis Vautour said it's not Berdovsky and Stevens who should take the fall for this.
According to Hoo and Vautour, the New York-based guerilla marketing firm, Interference Inc., which was running the advertising campaign in Boston; New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Atlanta; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Philadelphia, asked Berdovsky to keep his involvement quiet as the event was playing out.
"We received an e-mail in the early afternoon from Peter that asked the community that he's a part of to keep any information we had on the down low and that was instructed to him by whoever his boss was in this advertising campaign gone wrong," Vautour said. "I don't know if it was for security reasons or it was to buy them some time or to buy Peter some time."
In an e-mail obtained by ABC News sent from Berdovsky to Hoo at 1:26 p.m. Wednesday, the artist writes, "My boss at the Cartoon Network's ad agency just called -- she is asking that I pretty please keep everything on the dl [down low; quiet]." The e-mail, supplied by Hoo, contains a large swath of blacked-out text that he claims contained personal information he'd rather not share.
Marketing Firm Posts Apology on Web Site
No one at Interference Inc. answered the phone or responded to requests for comment on the authenticity of the e-mail.
The company's Web site, which had appeared as just a white page all day, now features a message addressing the incident.
"We at Interference, Inc. regret that our efforts on behalf of our client contributed to the disruption in Boston yesterday and certainly apologize to anyone who endured any hardship as a result. Nothing undertaken by our firm was in any way intended to cause anxiety, fear or discomfort to anyone. We are working with Turner Broadcasting and appropriate law enforcement and municipal authorities to provide information as requested and take other appropriate actions," the statement says.
Shirley Powell, a spokesperson for Turner Broadcasting, said she was unaware of the e-mail and that it was "nothing I've heard." Powell said that at this point the company had no comment on the e-mail or allegations Berdovsky was asked to keep quiet.
So far, Stevens and Berdovsky are the only people charged in the advertising campaign that turned into a terror scare, creating chaos across the Boston area.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had blasted Turner Broadcasting, owners of the Cartoon Network, and the advertising agency responsible for the stunt pledging to hold them accountable for the cost of the scare.
Less than a week after the incident, Turner and the mayor's office announced an agreement that pays the city $2 million for the incident.
A statement released by Menino's office says that, "The settlement included approximately $1 million to the cities and state agencies for their emergency response and another $1 million in good will funding."
In full-page advertisements appearing in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald last week, Turner laid out an apology to the city which they're not backing up with the promised funds.
Let me start with what is most important --- an apology, for the confusion and inconvenience caused in your community on Wednesday by an unconventional marketing tactic. 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.
We appreciate the commitment to the community demonstrated by Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, Attorney General Coakley, the Boston Police Department and other local agencies in their response on Wednesday, and have pledged to them our full cooperation as we work to understand what happened and why, and then to act responsibly on that information.
Our focus today and in the days ahead is on demonstrating to you the sincerity of our desire to do what is right. What happened in Boston is a humbling reminder that reputation is something we earn every day. We are working to regain your respect.
Chairman and CEO,
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Berdovsky and Stevens may not have helped their case after appearing at a press conference and refusing to answer questions about the event. Instead, they chose to engage reporters on their hairstyles and questioned whether the popularity of the Beatles' haircut made it out of the 1960s or not.
All four, Hoo, Vautour, Berdovsky and Stevens, are part of a collective of artists called GlitchCrew, a group that uses technology as an artistic medium.
"Peter's a poor artist and he does jobs like this for money and Sean…is primarily an artist as well," Hoo said. "This was considered an art project. Peter and Sean are both video artists and community-oriented artists at that."
Hoo and Vautour said they don't know how or why things were allowed to get so wildly out of control, but both fear their friends will be made scapegoats when they feel the people behind the campaign are the ones who are truly responsible.
"The point is that they knew what was going on, they knew the country was on terror alert and they told him to keep quiet and they kept quiet themselves," Hoo said. "They knew that was happening, told him to not say anything and now he's in jail."