Jailing the Artists, Not the Executives

Now that two young artists have been charged with felonies by state prosecutors in Massachusetts for placing 38 cartoon devices to promote the Cartoon Network’s show “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” around Boston–devices that caused a city-wide panic–the question becomes–why were the artists charged and not the companies?

The artists were charged with placing a hoax device–a felony–and disorderly conduct.

But the artists were working for some very big companies.

So, why isn’t Time Warner facing felony charges?

Why isn’t Turner Broadcasting?

The Cartoon Network?

The marketing company–Interference Inc.?

Why not the CEOs of these companies?

Why were the artists charged and not the companies?

And not the company executives?

Boston Mayor Tom Menino said it was all about “corporate greed.”

“It is outrageous, in a post 9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme,” Menino said. “I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today’s incidents.”

Except for criminal prosecution.

That’s reserved for artists.

Why charge the young artists with crimes?

They had no previous criminal records.

And now they have a record.

But the companies don’t.

And the executives don’t.

Why not charge the companies with felonies?

Because the companies carry the big sticks.

And big checkbooks.

And big law firms.

Because it’s a lot easier shield the political heat by charging a couple of kids with felonies than some of the nation’s largest corporations.

To show that you are doing “something.”

Because the new Attorney General of Massachusetts–Martha Coakley–has previously expressed her doubts about the effectiveness of pursuing corporate crime–including in the death of a woman crushed in the Big Dig tunnel collapse. (See “Mass AG Says Criminal Probe Difficult in Big Dig Tunnel Death Case,” 21 Corporate Crime Reporter 1(3), January 1, 2007), print edition only.)

Coakley’s spokesperson says “she’s not doing interviews at this time.”

If not now, when?

Will the companies be criminally charged in this case?

No they will not.

They may end up writing a big check to the city.

But their executives will not appear before a judge–as the two young artists did this morning.

They will not face criminal charges.

As the two kids did this morning.

They will remain above the fray.

Issuing apologies.

“We apologize to the citizens of Boston that part of a marketing campaign was mistaken for a public danger,” said Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Chairman and CEO Phil Kent.

Offering to write the big checks.

Even writing big checks.

Water off a duck’s back.

But no shaming ritual.

No humiliating felony charge.

To reverse this travesty, the choice the Attorney General faces is simple.

Either drop the charges against the artists.

Or charge the companies involved and their executives.

Let us know when you start doing interviews.

Corporate Crime Reporter is located in Washington, DC. They can be reached through their website.