Parents convicted in 2009 ‘balloon boy’ hoax pardoned
FILE – In this Jan. 11, 2010, file photo, Richard Heene, right, and his wife, Mayumi, arrive at the Laramie County Detention Center in Fort Collins, Colo. The couple convicted of criminal charges in the so-called balloon boy hoax that fascinated the country more than a decade ago was pardoned Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, by the governor of Colorado. (AP Photo/ Ed Andrieski, File)
DENVER (AP) — A couple convicted of criminal charges in the so-called balloon boy hoax that fascinated the country more than a decade ago were pardoned Wednesday by the governor of Colorado.
Richard and Mayumi Heene reported their 6-year-old son had floated away in an homemade UFO-shaped silver helium balloon in 2009.
Dozens of emergency responders and two Colorado National Guard helicopters scrambled to save the boy as video footage of the enormous balloon floating far above the ground made national news.
But the child was never on the balloon, and he was later found unharmed at his home in Fort Collins, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Denver. Authorities said the Heenes staged the ordeal to get publicity for reality TV shows they were trying to pitch.
Eleven years later, couple has now “paid the price in the eyes of the public” and shouldn’t have to be dragged down by a criminal record for the rest of their lives, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement Wednesday.
“We are all ready to move past the spectacle from a decade ago,” said Polis, a first-term Democrat.
Richard Heene served a month in jail after pleading guilty to a felony count of attempting to influence a public servant, and Mayumi Heene was jailed for 20 days for filing a false report. They were also ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution.
The couple told ABC News last year that it wasn’t a hoax because they truly feared their son could have been aboard the balloon when they called for help.
Polis also issued 16 other pardons and four commutations.