Richard Heene wanted attention for his family, but probably not the kind it is now receiving as authorities look likely to file criminal charges over the alleged Ballon Boy hoax.
According to the Coloradan, police in Larimer County Colorado say they have evidence showing the incident was a hoax, and have recommended charges be filed. Here is a brief rundown of the drama surrounding Balloon Boy Falcon Heene who was feared stuck in a UFO looking balloon "accidentally" untethered in the Heene's backyard. As we all learned, Falcon was not in the balloon. If police are right, his parents never thought he was in it, either.
What charges could Richard Heene, his wife and possibly others face?
They could face charges for conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, making a false report to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant.
Under Colorado law, attempting to influence a public servant means using deceit or a threat with the intent of changing how a public servant performs his or her function. In this case, it could relate to allegedly using deceit to cause many public servants (from various departments of government) to swing into action to find and rescue young Falcon.
This is a class 4 felony, punishable with between 2 and 6 years in prison and fine of up to $500,000.
According to the AP, a self-described "researcher" named Robert Thomas was at one point working with Heene on a potential mad scientist oriented reality show. Thomas was paid by the website Gawker.com for a story billed as "Exclusive: I Helped Richard Heene Plan a Balloon Hoax."
One potentially interesting angle that may develop: what was the role of the "media outlet" which authorities have referenced as having agreed to pay Heene regarding the balloon hoax? Sherriff Alderden described the media outlets as blurring the line between information and news. According to the AP, Gawker.com says it is not the media outlet in question.
Gawker has put up Robert Thomas' interesting account of his time working with Heene (which includes discussion of a Heene's idea for a UFO hoax "news event").
Many facts are still out -- and it seems that the type of hoax described by Thomas was more along the lines of a fake UFO situation to grab public attention, hopefully with reality TV backing. If, however, the Balloon Boy incident was a hoax and any media outlets were involved in orchestrating it, they too could face charges including conspiracy to attempt to influence public servants.
- Balloon boy saga 'absolutely ... a hoax,' sheriff says (Denver Post)
- Exclusive: I Helped Richard Heene Plan a Balloon Hoax (Gawker.com)
- Aliens Spoke to Balloon Boy's Father Richard Heene at a Fast-Food Restaurant (CBS Crimesider)
- Classifications of Crimes (provided by Rothman & Associates, P.A.)
- Criminal Law Defense (provided by Brickfield & Donahue)