Criminal Justice

Parents Take Plea in 'Balloon Boy' Hoax


The parents of a 6-year-old boy who was reported to be aloft in an experimental balloon last month but actually was hiding at home in an alleged hoax intended to promote a reality television program, have agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges concerning the Oct. 15 incident.

Richard Heene will plead guilty to a felony, attempting to influence a public servant, according to defense attorney David Lane. He says Heene’s wife, Mayumi Heene, who is a Japanese citizen, will plead guilty to a misdemeanor, false reporting to authorities. If convicted of a felony in the case, she could have been deported, reports the Associated Press.

Prosecutors are expected to ask for jail time, and the Colorado couple could get up to 90 days, for Richard Heene, 48, and 60 days, for Mayumi Heene, 45, under the plea deal, Lane said.

Lane criticized prosecutors for professing to care about the welfare of the so-called balloon boy, Falcon Heene, and his two older siblings while threatening to pursue a case that could get a “loving, kind, caring” mother deported. To avoid this result, Lane says, Heene agreed to plead guilty even though he had a good chance of winning at trial.

A search warrant affidavit says that Mayumi Heene made incriminating statements admitting that she and her husband built the balloon specifically for the purpose of perpetrating the hoax, in which they made frantic calls to authorities who launched a frenzied, multistate search, the AP recounts. The two also allegedly told their three children to lie to authorities, Mayumi Heene told police.

However, her statements probably couldn’t be used as evidence against her husband because a marital privilege applies, the news agency explains.

“He feels like he’s got to do what he’s got to do to save his wife from being deported,” Lane said of Richard Heene.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Boy, 6, Reported Aloft, Alone in Balloon, Found Alive at Home”

ABAJournal.com: “‘Balloon Boy’ Parents to Be Charged in Alleged Hoax Promoting Reality TV Show”

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