Balloon boy’s parents to plead guilty

By Calvin Palmer

The Colorado couple, who reported their six-year-old son had floated away in a helium balloon tethered in their back yard, has agreed to a plea deal in order that the family can stay together, according to the attorney for the boy’s father.

Richard Heene, 48, will plead guilty in court tomorrow to attempting to influence a public servant, a felony, his attorney David Lane said today. Mayumi Heene, 45, a Japanese citizen who could have been deported if convicted of more serious charges, will plead guilty to false reporting to authorities.

Police accused the couple of masterminding the October 15 hoax as part of a publicity stunt.

When the balloon finally came back to earth 40 miles away, the basket six-year-old Falcon Heene had allegedly climbed into was found to be empty. It later emerged he had been hiding in an attic over the garage at the couple’s Fort Collins home.

In an interview with CNN, Falcon let slip that he had not come out of his hiding place during the drama because “you guys said that we did this for the show”.

When deputies questioned both parents separately  two days later, Richard Heene denied it was a publicity stunt but Mayumi Heene admitted the incident was a hoax, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Lane said Mayumi’s statements likely could not have been used against her husband because of marital privilege, which can keep a person’s spouse from testifying against him or her.

As part of the plea deal, Lane said prosecutors have agreed to let both parents serve probation sentences. The most serious of the charges recommended by Sheriff Jim Alderden would have carried a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

In a statement, Lane said keeping the family together was a main factor in reaching the deal.

“Upon reviewing the evidence, arguably, Mayumi could have possibly ended up being deported and Richard could have proceeded to trial and had a good chance at an acquittal,” Lane stated. “This, however, would have put the family at grave risk of seeing a loving, caring, compassionate wife and mother ripped from the family and deported. That was not an acceptable risk, thus these pleas.”

[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]

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