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Balloon Boy Hoax: Heene Parents to Plead Guilty

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By Kamika Dunlap on November 12, 2009 9:57 AM

The couple behind last month's balloon boy hoax will plead guilty Friday to some charges in order to keep the family together, their lawyer said.

According to the Associated Press, Richard Heene will plead guilty in the alleged hoax to attempting to influence a public servant, a felony charge and his wife Mayumi will plead guilty to false reporting, a misdemeanor.

Instead of separate plea deals, prosecutors insisted on a package deal. They also have agreed to allow both to serve probation sentences.

The parents of Falcon Heene, a 6-year-old boy reported their son floated away on October 15 aboard a homemade helium balloon.

The incident was captured on national television as the balloon traveled nearly 50 miles at an altitude of around 8,000 feet.

The couple's attorney David Lane said this plea deal attempts to help the the family stay together. Mayumi Heene is a Japanese citizen and possibly faced deportation if convicted of more serious charges.

The judge however doesn't have to accept the plea deal and could alter its terms.

Eventually, the boy was found safe at home hiding in the attic. That's when Heene's story began to unravel, amplifying public suspicion.

The AP reports that during a live interview on CNN shortly after the balloon chase, Falcon looked to his father and said, "You had said that we did this for a show."

Richard Heene, 48, appeared on ABC's "Wife Swap," and sources close to him told authorities about the self-described scientist's ambitions for a reality show of his own.

Deputies questioned both parents separately. Richard Heene denied he staged the disappearance of their son. Mayumi Heene, 45, admitted it was a hoax.

Mayumi Heene's statements couldn't have been used against her husband because of marital privilege, which can keep a prosecutors from forcing a person's spouse to testify against him or her.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden recommended the most serious charges, which would have carried a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

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