Sheriff: Balloon Boy incident 'was a hoax,' parents are actors
Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden announced in a press conference Sunday that "It has been determined this was a hoax, a publicity stunt" and that "after the fact ... we have since learned these people are actors."
Much was said during the press conferece, so here's a bullet point breakdown of what the Sheriff alleged:
- Charges have not yet been filed, but they are possibly looking at the following: conspiracy; contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a Class 4 felony; false reporting to authorities, a Class 3 misdemeanor; and attempting to influence a public servant, a Class 4 felony.
- The last charge, if the Heenes are convicted, could carry a maximum sentence of 2-6 years in jail.
- A timeline of who was called first on the day of the incident (Thursday, Oct. 15) has not been determined. Phone records still need to be obtained.
- Richard and Mayumi Heene first met in acting class. Sheriff: "They put on a very good show for us, and we bought it."
- The aircraft and its plywood box attachment was actually strong enough to support the weight of Falcon Heene, 37 pounds, but may not have been able to get airborne.
- The Sheriff's office was skeptical, but initially could only act on the information given to them Thursday, which they deemed "plausible."
- After the Wolf Blitzer "a-ha" moment in which Falcon Heene said that he "did it for the show," the Sheriff's department felt they had to carry out a strategy of nurturing the Heene's trust in order to get the information they needed to debunk the incident.
- With this trust, the authorities convinced the Heene parents to conduct separate interviews and voluntarily come into the offices for additional questioning.
- In Colorado, Rules 3.6 and 3.8 forbid the authorities from revealing certain information, such as if a confession was obtained or if a polygraph test was administered.
- There are still plans to meet with the FBI and FAA to see if additional federal charges are appropriate in this circumstance.
- More information -- in the form of computers, emails, financial records, media recordings, reality TV show proposals and contracts -- are still being sought.
- Mayumi and Richard may be a flight risk, but "felony warrants will follow them."
- The three children -- Brandon, Ryo and Falcon -- have been returned to the parents, and child protective services have been notified.
- The Sheriff's office will examine if others were part of the conspiracy.
- Although the authorities believe the children were fully involved with the hoax, Alderden doubts the kids will face criminal charges considering their ages: 6, 8 and 10.
- The hoax had been planned for at least two weeks.
- Authorities are hoping to question Richard Heene's former assistant Robert Thomas, but they have not been able to locate him.
When asked if the Sheriff's office had ever been involved with such a case as this, Alderden concluded, "On the bizarre meter this rates a 10."
Bizarre indeed. Check out "Saturday Night Live's" nod to the Balloon Boy incident:
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