The husband and wife who pleaded guilty to criminal charges for staging the 2009 “balloon boy” hoax, creating a global media sensation with a false report that their son had floated away in a makeshift dirigible, were pardoned on Wednesday by Colorado’s governor.
In granting executive clemency to Richard Mayumi Heene, essentially a forgiveness of their crimes, Governor Jared Polis said the couple, now 59 and 56, had paid their debt to society for a “spectacle” that wasted law enforcement time and resources.
The couple drew worldwide attention when they reported on Oct. 15, 2009, that their 6-year-old son, Falcon, had been carried aloft by a homemade helium balloon that had become untethered from the family’s backyard in Fort Collins, Colorado.
News footage showed the silver balloon, resembling a flying saucer, soaring over northeastern Colorado for 90 minutes, trailed by National Guard helicopters as authorities scrambled to reroute aviation traffic around Denver International Airport.Millions were riveted to live coverage on television and the internet, watching as the balloon craft finally landed in a wheat field, with no one found aboard.Falcon, the youngest of the couple’s three children, ultimately turned up in the attic of the family’s garage.
Investigators said the mother later admitted the stunt was aimed at gaining the family their own reality TV show.