Thursday, February 01, 2007

Peter, Peter, Peter....

Hoax Jokesters Laugh their Way out of Charlestown Courtroom
by Michael McPhee, Jessica Fargen, Laurel J. Sweet
wo “starving artists” whose moronic Mooninite masterpieces brought Boston to a standstill yesterday were promised only $300 apiece by a guerilla marketing firm for a stunt that will cost taxpayers nearly $1 million.
Peter Berdovsky, 27, of Arlington and Sean Stevens, 28, of Charlestown - who this morning had to scratch up $2,500 cash bail each for possession of a hoax device and disorderly conduct - haven’t even been paid by Interference Inc., according to a close friend.
Their new fans turned out in droves this morning at the Charlestown Division of Boston Municipal Court to see the suddenly infamous pair plead not guilty to their alleged roles in a national cartoon marketing compaign responded to by police as a well-executed terrorist plot. Even post-arrest, the whole affair seemed to be of great amusement to Berdovsky and Stevens. They giggled and laughed out loud as assistant Attorney General John Grossman, chief of high technology and computer crimes, described for Judge Paul K. Leary the light-emitting diodes fashioned to resemble an offensive Mooninite from the Cartoon Network’s TV show - and upcoming major motion picture - “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”
The Cartoon Network is owned by Turner Broadcasting, a Time Warner company.
Crystal Huff, 27, a friend of Stevens’ who sat in the courtroom crocheting, sniffed, “Turner has gotten what they want and now they’re going to leave Sean out to dry. These are starving artists. They got a pittance for all this.”
Berdovsky, a Belarus immigrant who reportedly has political asylum, came to court in long dreadlocks, red sox and sandals. Attorney Michael Rich, the de facto foster father with whom he has lived, represented both men, who appeared in shackles.
Stevens claims to be a self-employed computer consultant and Berdovsky, a freelance artist.
“They didn’t want to cause widespread panic,” Rich said. “Their intent was to reach out to their potential audience. They were shocked at the public fear and the police response.”
Neither had criminal records until now. So far, they are charged only with rigging the first of 38 battery operated Mooninite signs. It was discovered early yesterday morningon a metal beam 18 feet above the ground at the MBTA Sullivan Station in Somerville. The ominous event set off a commuter nightmare.
Berdovsky and Stevens, who’ve been described as “cooperative” with police, consented to videotaped interviews with investigators. Stevens has surrendered two expandable black poles that were allegedly used to hang the Mooninites as well as batteries, a roll of black duct tape and three pages of e-mails from the Cartoon Network.
The men, who filmed their work, were allegedly provided a hit list of locations by the New York guerrilla marketing firm Interference Inc. on behalf of the Cartoon Network. Interference had identifed areas frequented by students into alternative arts.
Prosecutor Grossman explained the reason Boston reacted as it did is because bomb cops are trained to examine foreign objects for a power source and a circuit board and both were present in the Sullivan Square Mooninite, as well as duct tape attached to a red wire.
“They believed it was very possibly a bomb,” Grossman said, adding that an obscene cartoon leering back at them did little to throw them off.
“Someone with a nefarious intent would do that on top of a bomb,” he said. “There’s a big difference between putting one on a rolled-down gate at Newbury Comics and putting one under the Longfellow Bridge.”
Over the course of several hours yesterday, police also dismantled Mooninites at Fenway Park [map], the Boston University Bridge, Downtown Crossing and in the Theater District. The Mooninites have reportedly been up for weeks.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino was still smarting over the prank this morning, but expressed some empathy for apparent pawns Berdovsky and Stevens.
“I want to go after the boardroom,” he said of Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting.
Menino said he spoke late Wednesday night with Philip Kent, the head of Turner Broadcasting.
“(Kent) said it got away from them and didn’t understand how it happened,” Menino said.
But Menino doubted how anyone could view citywide bomb scares as a joke when the devices were placed under bridges and near major highways.
“That’s not a normal place to put a prank (device),” he said. “Why didn’t this advertising agency contact the city and tell us it’s going on?”
Rich’s wife, Betty, said in Berdovsky’s defense, “Peter was hired to do a job. It was an artistic endeavor for him. This was not funny, but what is also not funny is the hysteria now surrounding this. Who is going to caught in the trap? Peter.
“I’m upset that the people who came up with these locations aren’t here with Peter and Sean,” she said.
Lorraine Stevens said her grandson is, “just a nerd. It’s nice that his friends were here. They look a little odd, but they’re all good kids.”
But a 67-year-old Charlestown woman who came to court with her husband to see this morning’s circus, said, “We didn’t think it was a big joke. I was afraid - absolutely, positively afraid.”

>>MassArt Alums makin' big moves...heh...And being a wiseass is to be expected of performance artists...What a media circus...Boston looks ridiculous...I would just like to state for the record that mullets are dead, Peter...

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