As authorities in Boston look into whether they can file criminal charges against the company behind the cartoon ad campaign -- or sue it for damages -- the initial criminal case against the two men charged with planting the Boston signs will not be easy for the state to pursue in court.
Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens were charged today with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and a more serious charge -- planting a hoax device. Prosecutors will have a hard time making that one stick.
The law has two main elements. First, a hoax device is defined as an object "that would cause a person reasonably to believe" it's something harmful, like a bomb. Assuming the state can get past that hurdle, there's a bigger obstacle: the law also requires that the device be placed "with the intent to cause anxiety, unrest, fear, or personal discomfort." Prosecutors said nothing during this morning's court hearing that would indicate they have any evidence of that.
The judge was puzzled by that, too. "Isn't that a key element of this particular charge?" he asked this morning. "And didn't you just tell me that the intent was to be able to advertise for a marketing purpose?"
The prosecutor answered that the intent was to get attention, "which they got by causing fear and unrest." But the state will have to prove the two men intended to cause that fear, which may be a tall order.