The parents of the so-called "balloon boy" will spend time behind bars for their giant hoax. And, they won't get to profit from the stunt. At least for four years.
A judge in Colorado on Tuesday sentenced Richard Heene to 90 days in jail, including 60 days of work release that will let him pursue work as a contractor while he serves his time. But probably more distressing for the media-starved Heene is that he will not be allowed to profit from the incident for four years. Last month Heene pleaded guilty to a felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant.
Meanwhile, his wife Mayumi was sentenced to 20 days in jail. She was charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor. Mayumi will serve her sentence after Heene serves his, so the children will always have a "responsible" parent around. Mayumi has the option to serve her sentence over ten weekends.
A teary Heene apologized to the court, saying, "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."
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Watch his statement here:
Heene admits pulling off the stunt in October in an attempt to land a reality TV show. It seems the networks kept turning down his pitches, but he figured they couldn't reject him again after gaining international fame as the father of "balloon boy." So he reported that his 6-year-old son was in a wayward balloon. After the balloon landed and Falcon Heene was not inside, there were fears he fell out. But hours later the family reported the boy was hiding in the attic of the family's home.
The whole thing fell apart on live television on CNN a few days later when Falcon turned to his dad and innocently said, "You guys said that, um, we did this for the show."
In asking for jail time, Chief Deputy District Attorney Andrew Lewis said a message must be sent to other would-be scammers. "Jay Leno said it best when he said, 'This is copycat game.' And people will copycat this event. They need to go to jail so people don't do that."
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David Lane, Richard Heene's attorney, pleaded for leniency with the judge and said that the Heenes "have learned a lesson they will never forget for the rest of their lives."
He also said that if someone has to go to jail, let it be Richard Heene and not his wife. "That is his plea. That would be something of a Christmas miracle if that can occur," he said.
But Larimer County District Judge Stephen Schapanski sent them both away, saying, "This, in simple terms, was an elaborate hoax that was devised by Mr. and Mrs. Heene."