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Parents in infamous ‘Balloon Boy’ saga pardoned by Colorado governor

Andrew Cuomo

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis pardoned the parents involved in the “Balloon Boy” saga of 2009 as part of nearly two dozen pardons and commutations on Wednesday.

Richard and Mayumi Heene pleaded guilty in 2009 after telling authorities that their aptly named 6-year-old son Falcon was inside a silver helium balloon that took off from their backyard. The balloon’s flight into the atmosphere was followed live by media worldwide, and the story had a happy ending — Falcon had not been in the balloon at all and was found safe at home.

The family basked in the resulting media attention, but their story fell apart after an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Repeating Blitzer’s question to his son, Richard Heene asked Falcon whether he heard his parents call for him as they searched the house. The boy said yes.

“And why didn’t you come out?” Richard asked.

“You guys said that we did this for the show,” Falcon replied.

Authorities later accused the parents of carrying out a hoax as part of a publicity stunt to market themselves for a reality TV show.

Mayumi Heene pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to authorities and spent 20 days in jail, and Richard Heene pleaded guilty to a felony count of attempting to influence a public servant and served 90 days in jail.

For his part, Richard Heene has denied that the incident was a sham, claiming that he pleaded guilty to keep his wife, originally from Japan, from being deported.

Polis, a Democrat who took office in 2019, offered the pardon and said the parents had paid the price in the eyes of the public.

“In the case of Richard and Mayumi Heene, the ‘balloon boy’ parents, we are all ready to move past the spectacle from a decade ago that wasted the precious time and resources of law enforcement officials and the general public,” Polis said in a statement.

“Richard and Mayumi have paid the price in the eyes of the public, served their sentences, and it’s time for all of us to move on. It’s time to no longer let a permanent criminal record from the balloon boy saga follow and drag down the parents for the rest of their lives.”

In all, Polis pardoned 18 people and commuted the sentences of four others on Wednesday.

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