Mission Impossible? Feds May Sue ‘LA Times’ Over Movie Promotion

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Federal prosecutors have said they may sue Paramount Pictures and the Los Angeles Times over a promotion for last year’s “Mission: Impossible III.”

Last April, Paramount placed digital devices in 4,500 Times newsracks around the city that played the iconic movie theme music whenever the door was opened. But some people thought the devices were bombs and reported them to police.

The Los Angeles County sheriff’s arson squad blew up a Times newsrack in Santa Clarita 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 newsrack by wires.

An assistant U.S. attorney sent a letter to Paramount and the Times last week, saying her office intended to sue both companies, but would be willing to discuss settlement short of litigation, the Times reported Thursday.

In her letters, 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.

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 on the letters and declined to make copies available to The Associated Press.

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” on bridges and other high-profile spots across the city, prompting the closing of a highway and the deployment of bomb squads.

Authorities are investigating whether Cartoon Network parent Turner Broadcasting Systems Inc., a unit of Time Warner Inc., or other companies should be criminally charged.

Kontos put her preliminary estimate of the loss sustained by the VA as a result of the evacuation at $92,855.77, the Times said.

After receiving calls about the bomb scares, Times security manager Mike LaPerruque notified law enforcement officials that the musical devices were not dangerous.

“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,” LaPerruque said.

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