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article imageBalloon-Boy Parents Plead Guilty

By Joan Firstenberg     Nov 13, 2009 in Crime
Guilty--the parents of a 6-year old Colorado boy who falsely claimed he was lost up high in a balloon, have decided to plead guitly to the crimes they committed.
The Colorado parents who announced frantically that their son was aboard a runaway balloon might now land up in prison. The Associated Press reports that Richard Heene appeared with his wife, Mayumi in Larimer County District Court on Friday. Richard pleaded guilty to a felony charge of falsely involving the sheriff who began a rescue effort and a 50-mile chase of the floating balloon on October 15th.
Mayumi pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of knowingly filing a false report with emergency services. It was only after it was clear that the story was a hoax, and the boy was safe at home, that Richard and Mayumi told authorities that they had made up the story in order to get enough publicity to get a reality TV show.
The Heenes are amateur reality show contenders and had appeared twice on ABC's "Wife Swap." Richard Heene's business associates told reporters he was pitching a TV series about science to the same company, RDF USA which creates "Wife Swap". RDF now says it scrapped plans it had with the Heenes after the balloon flight.
Even at today's court appearance there was some discussion of future talk show appearances for the Heenes. The Judge agreed to their lawyer's request that the couple could travel to New York or California for work.
But at least one New York-based production company say there's no way they will touch a Heenes idea...Irad Eyal is vice president of development at True Entertainment.
"It's just too poisonous. I don't think anyone is going to want to meet with a man who shamed his family and children that way. In reality TV, there's a definite line you don't cross, and that's tormenting children."
The couple's sentencing is set for December 23rd. Richard Heene faces up to 90 days in jail, probation and a fine. He could also be forced to pay the town and the police the tens of thousands of dollars they spent on the faux rescue. Wife and mother Mayumi could get 60 days, which might be served in a work-release program, and probation.
Nothing in the deal calls for removing 6-year-old Falcon or the couple's other two children — ages 8 and 10 — from the parents' custody.
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