The husband and wife, who pleaded guilty to criminal charges for carrying out the “Balloon Boy” hoax in 2009, were pardoned by the governor of Colorado after they created a global media sensation and falsely reported that their son was a temporary float.
In granting administrative approval to Richard and Mayumi Heen, Governor Jared told police that the couple, now 59 and 56, have paid their debt to the community for a “scene” that wastes time and resources enforcing the law.
On October 15, 2009, the couple reported that their six-year-old son had been flown overboard by a helium balloon into a family ‘s backyard in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The silver balloon, similar to a flying saucer, flew for 90 minutes by National Guard helicopters in northeastern Colorado as authorities paddled to divert air traffic around Denver International Airport.
Watching the balloon finally land on the wheat field was broadcast live to millions on television and the Internet. No one was on board, and Balkan, the youngest of the couple’s three children, eventually returned to the family’s garage room.
Investigators said the stunt was aimed at the family getting their own reality TV show.
Heinz’s initial account came out after appearing on CNN’s Larry King Live, in which he was asked why he had been in hiding with the Balkans for so long. Looking at his parents first, the boy replied: “You said we did this for a show.”
Richard Hein pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to assault a public servant, a fraud, and was sentenced to 30 days in prison. His wife pleaded guilty to a felony for filing a false statement and ordered to do 20 hours of supervised community service.
The husband’s lawyer, David Lane, told Reuters the family, now living in Florida, were “very grateful” to police, but he swiped lawyers at the case. Lane told Richard Hein that if he did not confess to a crime, they would move to deport Mayumi, who was a Japanese citizen. “Richard had no choice, so he took it.”
The Balloon Boy case was granted by Democratic police on Wednesday with 18 pardons and four sentence changes.