Falcon’s Parents Sentenced In Balloon Hoax





Falcon’s Parents Sentenced In Balloon Hoax

By Mike Mitchell
Falcon’s Parents Sentenced For Balloon Hoax

December 28, 2009 – Back on October 15th a Colorado couple had reported their 6 year old son, Falcon had somehow climbed onboard his father's homemade helium balloon, that was anchored in the backyard of the family home, in which the balloon accidentally took flight. TV viewers around the world watched this silver pan shaped balloon float across Colorado’s countryside, reaching altitudes of 9,000 ft. Viewers hoped and prayed the outcome would not turn to tragedy. It turned out, that Falcon was not onboard and it was all a hoax.  

Newly appointed District Judge Stephen Schapanski of the Eighth Judicial District of Colorado presided over the proceedings. Judge Stephen Schapanski stated it was all about money, deception, exploitation of the children, exploitation of the media, exploitation of the emotions of people and he wanted to deter others from following the Heenes' behavior. 


David Lane the Heene's attorney, had asked for leniency, stating no one was physically hurt by the family's stunt, and noted that no one was punished "when Orson Welles convinced America that Martians were landing" in his radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" in 1938. 

Judge Stephen Schapanski sentenced Richard Heene to 30 days behind bars to begin January 11, 2010, allowing the family to spend the Christmas holidays together. Mayumi Heene, was not given jail time but will be required to do 160 hours of community work. Both parents where placed on probation for 4 years. The parents will forgo any financial benefit including potential earnings generated by book deals or other media ventures and will be required to pay court cost and fines.  

Court costs and fines have not been determined, in total it will be in the thousands of dollars. These costs will include the costs for search and rescue, various government agencies costs, and a fine from the FAA that will be about $11,000. 

The family’s story began to unravel when they went on to CNN’s “Larry King Live”. Filling in was Wolf Blitzer. The 6 year old son, Falcon had reported he heard his parents calling for him from the garage. This raised a red flag as it was reported that the 6 year old was in the attic. The father then asked his son on the air why he didn't respond, the boy replied, "You guys said we did this for the show." Wolf Blitzer then asked the father what his son meant by that, the father became noticeably uncomfortable. He replied and stated he was "appalled" by the questions, and then adding that Falcon was likely referring to all the media coverage.


A Colorado State University physics professor Brian Jones reported the balloon which was held together with duct tape would not have been able to launch with the 37-pound-boy inside. 

Just two days later authorities reported the parents and others in the media outlets had planned this hoax with the hopes of establishing a lucrative reality show. Emails had surfaced showing that a media outlet has agreed to pay money to the Heenes with regards to the balloon incident.

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