NPR logo Lawyer: 'Balloon Boy' Parents To Plead Guilty

Lawyer: 'Balloon Boy' Parents To Plead Guilty

A small homemade helium balloon, thought to have been containing a 6-year-old boy, is pictured floating thousands of feet above Colorado. Reuters via KUSA TV hide caption

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Reuters via KUSA TV

A small homemade helium balloon, thought to have been containing a 6-year-old boy, is pictured floating thousands of feet above Colorado.

Reuters via KUSA TV

The parents of a Colorado boy who was thought to have floated away in a silver helium balloon last month are expected to plead guilty to criminal charges in a Larimer County, Colo., court Friday.

Lawyer David Lane, who represents the parents in the case, said Thursday a settlement has been reached. In a written statement, Lane said the father, Richard Heene, will plead guilty to a felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant. He said the mother, Mayumi Heene, will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of making a false report to authorities.

Lane said Mayumi Heene is a citizen of Japan and could have faced deportation if she had pleaded guilty to a felony. He said the father agreed to "fall on his sword" to keep that from happening.

"It is supremely ironic that law enforcement has expressed such grave concern over the welfare of the children," Lane said. "But it was ultimately the threat of taking the children's mother from the family and deporting her to Japan which fueled this deal."

Neither the Larimer County district attorney's office nor the sheriff's office has confirmed the settlement. If the court approves it, the father could face up to 90 days in jail and the mother up to 60 days.

Earlier in the week, Boulder County's district attorney decided not to file criminal charges against Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden for allegedly violating privacy laws. Alderden had earlier disclosed that child welfare workers were involved in the case.

The Oct. 15 incident triggered national attention amid reports that 6-year-old Falcon Heene was inside a balloon that floated away from the family's home. Video of the balloon, careening wildly in the air, was broadcast live by cable television news outlets. When the balloon landed 40 miles from the family's Fort Collins, Colo., home more than two hours later, no one was found inside.

The stunt temporarily shut down Denver International Airport and caused the National Guard to scramble two helicopters in an attempt to rescue the boy, who was believed to be inside the flying-saucer shaped homemade balloon that hurtled across two counties.

A few hours later, the 6-year-old was found hiding in a cardboard box in his family's garage attic. As the investigation continued in subsequent days, law enforcement officials began to suspect it was an elaborate hoax — a marketing ploy by the boy's parents, who had appeared on the ABC reality show Wife Swap and reportedly were seeking a reality television contract.

Alderden said all three of the Heenes' sons knew of the hoax but likely won't face charges because of their ages. The oldest son is 10. One of the boys told investigators he saw his brother get in the balloon's box before it launched.

Heene, 48, a storm chaser and inventor, has described himself as an amateur scientist.

Contributing: The Associated Press.