"Balloon Boy" Parents Slapped with Jail Time

By: From CBS News
By: From CBS News

FORT COLLINS, Colorado -- The Colorado parents who carried out the balloon boy hoax, were sentenced to jail Wednesday and given strict probation conditions that forbid them from earning any money from the spectacle for four years.

Richard Heene was sentenced to 90 days in jail, including 60 days of work release that will let him pursue his job as a construction contractor while serving his time. His wife, Mayumi, was sentenced to 20 days in jail.

Richard Heene choked back tears as he said he was sorry, especially to the rescue workers who chased down false reports that his 6-year-old son had floated away in a balloon on Oct. 15. It was a stunt designed to generate attention for a reality TV show.

"I do want to reiterate that I'm very, very sorry. And I want to apologize to all the rescue workers out there, and the people that got involved in the community. That's it," said Richard Heene, whose wife did not speak at the hearing.

Larimer County District Judge Stephen Schapanski then ordered Heene to begin a 30-day jail term on Jan. 11, delaying the start of the sentence for two weeks so he can spend the holidays with his family. Schapanski allowed Heene to serve the remaining 60 days of his jail term under work release, meaning he can work during the day but spend his nights in jail.

The Heenes' probation will be revoked if they are found to be profiting from any book, TV, movie or other deals related to the stunt.

"This, in simple terms, was an elaborate hoax that was devised by Mr. and Mrs. Heene," the judge said.

The Heenes pleaded guilty to charges that they carried out the balloon hoax, with deals that called for up to 90 days in jail for the husband and 60 days for his wife.

Schapanski ordered Mayumi Heene to serve 20 days in jail after her husband completes his sentence. Her time served is flexible - she can report to jail on 10 weekends, for example - so the children are cared for, the judge said.

Back in October, the Heenes made frantic calls to 911, the news media and the Federal Aviation Administration to report that their son may have been aboard a runaway balloon. That triggered a desperate 50-mile chase as the craft drifted across northern Colorado's plains - and then another desperate search once the balloon landed and the boy was nowhere to be found.

Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence for the husband, saying that a message needs to be sent to promoters who attempt to carry out hoaxes to generate publicity. Chief Deputy District Attorney Andrew Lewis also asked for full restitution to reimburse authorities for the cost of investigating the hoax - an amount that could exceed $50,000.

That includes two national guard helicopters launched to track the balloon, overtime for sheriff's employees and damage to the field where the balloon landed, reports CBS News correspondent Rick Sallinger.

"People around the world were watching this unfold," Lewis said. "Mr. Heene wasted a lot of manpower and a lot of money in wanting to get himself some publicity."


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