Federal prosecutors have said they may sue Paramount Pictures and the Los Angeles Times over a film promotion last year in which digital devices planted in news racks were mistaken for bombs.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda A. Kontos accused the companies of acting "carelessly in executing the promotional campaign by planting a device that could be mistaken for a bomb in a United States government building post-9/11," the Times reported Thursday.
The threat of prosecution was reported a day after Boston officials found 38 blinking electronic signs promoting the Cartoon Network TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" across the city. Authorities are investigating whether Cartoon Network parent Turner Broadcasting Systems Inc., a unit of Time Warner Inc., or other companies should be criminally charged.
Last April, Paramount, which is owned by Viacom Inc., placed the devices in 4,500 Times news racks around Los Angeles that played the iconic movie theme music for "Mission: Impossible III" whenever the door was opened. Some people thought they were bombs and reported them to police.
The Los Angeles County sheriff's arson squad blew up a Times news rack as a precaution and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Los Angeles was evacuated for 90 minutes after someone spotted a 6-inch-long red plastic box attached to the news rack by wires.
"With the wires leading to the micro-switch on the news rack doors, I can easily see how someone might have misconstrued it as an improvised explosive device," Times security manager Mike LaPerruque said.
Kontos sent a letter to Paramount and the Times last week, saying her office intended to sue both companies but would be willing to discuss a settlement, the Times reported.
The Times is a unit of the Tribune Co.
Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan said the paper had no comment on the letter. Paramount spokeswoman Janet Hill also declined comment.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said he could not comment and declined to make copies available to The Associated Press.