Sunday October 18, 2009 1:24 pm
Balloon Boy Story was Full of Hot Air, Charges Coming
What may have started years ago in a Hollywood has come crashing to the ground in Colorado.
In a press conference earlier today, Sheriff Jim Alderden of Larimer County has confirmed that the balloon event from Thursday was indeed a hoax. “We have evidence at this point to indicate that it was a publicity stunt, done with the hopes of marketing themselves - or better marketing themselves - for a reality television show at some point in the future.”
This statement comes just two days after the police (intentionally) led the media into believing that they had bought the Heene family’s story. In fact, the former Wife Swap subjects had been under increased scrutiny by the media - and the authorities - after Falcon’s blunder during an interview with Wolf Blitzer.
Read More | MSNBC
Although Mayumi and Richard Heene had convincingly played the worried parents role during the initial search, it appears the two may have had plenty of time to rehearse since meeting in a Hollywood acting school years ago. Unfortunately, their 6-year-old child was not as skilled at lying to the public.
Once the CNN interview aired Thursday night, the sheriff’s department experienced an “aha moment.” But plans to interview the family members separately - and possibly subject them to polygraph tests - were ruined by the national media interviews on Friday morning. The obvious distress and fatigue (and nausea) would have made any tests invalid.
So in order to gain the family’s trust until their next meeting, the police purposely misled the media into believing the story wasn’t fabricated. This lead to a voluntary appearance at the police department by Richard Heene on Saturday (who thought he was going to get his balloon back). During that time, investigators were at the home talking to his wife separately.
Although police in Colorado are not able to disclose whether polygraph tests were ever taken, or if any confessions were made, they can say that they had enough probable cause to execute a search warrant later at the home. Items of interest included any computers, phone records, financial records, media records and/or contracts.
As of this time, no charges have been filed against the family yet—though Sheriff Alderden predicts they will be making recommendations to the DA’s office. In addition to likely charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, false reporting to authorities, and attempting to influence a public servant against the Heenes, the police will consult with the FBI and FAA to see if any federal charges can be filed. Of the offenses listed, it’s possible the Heenes could face up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine. (It’s doubtful the three boys will have any charges filed against them.)
According to both the producers behind Wife Swap and the execs at TLC, the family had been pitching reality show ideas before Thursday’s event.
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