Parents of 'Balloon Boy' Get Jail Time, Probation

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The parents who perpetrated the "balloon boy" hoax were sentenced to jail Wednesday in Colorado. Richard and Mayumi Heene will both spend time behind bars. They will be on probation for years afterward, and barred from profiting from the spectacle during that time.


Sentences were handed down today for the Colorado couple involved in the balloon boy hoax. They both received some jail time: 90 days for the father, Richard Heene, and 20 for the mother, Mayumi Heene.

NPR's Jeff Brady has the story.

JEFF BRADY: Richard Heene appeared to choke back tears in court as he addressed the judge.

Mr. RICHARD HEENE: I'm very, very sorry. And I want to apologize to all the rescue workers out there.

BRADY: For several hours in mid-October, the world believed Heene's story that his son, Falcon, had floated away in a silver UFO-shaped balloon. But when the device crashed into a field, there was no boy inside. Later, it was learned that Falcon was hiding in the family's garage all along. It was during an appearance on CNN the next day that the Heene's story began to fall apart. In answering a question, six-year-old Falcon let the family's plan slip out.

Mr. FALCON HEENE: You had said that we did this for a show.

BRADY: The prosecutor in court today said the hoax was designed to get publicity for the family. He said the Heenes were frustrated that TV networks kept rejecting their proposals for a reality show. Richard Heene has since pleaded guilty to a felony charge of falsely influencing the sheriff. The mother pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of knowingly filing a false report.

Speaking over a scratchy sound system, Larimer County Judge Stephen Schapansky also sentenced the couple to four years probation. He placed an extra stipulation on their sentences.

Judge STEPHEN SCHAPANSKY (Larimer County, Colorado): Mr. Heene is, in fact, prohibited from receiving any form of financial benefit from whether it be media, a book, an article he writes, anything of that kind that stems from this incident.

BRADY: The judge allowed the Heenes to wait until after the holidays to begin serving their sentences. Richard Heene will serve 30 days straight time, then 60 days in a program that allows him to go to work during the day.

Mayumi Heene will be allowed to serve her 20-day sentence over the course of 10 weekends. The judge is expected to decide in January whether the Heenes will face a fine. Law enforcement reportedly spent more than $40,000 on the search for the boy and associated expenses.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

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