WACO, TX – A former Central Texas man and his wife convicted of criminal charges in the “balloon boy” hoax that fascinated the country more than a decade ago were pardoned Wednesday by the governor of Colorado.
Richard and Mayumi Heene reported their 6-year-old son had floated away in a homemade UFO-shaped silver helium balloon in 2009.
Richard Heene was a self-described amateur scientist and weather-chaser who told the Denver Post in an interview in 2007 that his interest in storms stemmed from an experience in the Waco, Texas area in 1979 when a tornado lifted the roof off a house and set it down some distance away. He said he was living in Waco and working as a carpenter and contractor at the time.
Dozens of emergency responders and two Colorado National Guard helicopters scrambled to save the boy as video footage of the enormous balloon floating far above the ground made national news.
But the child was never on the balloon, and he was later found unharmed at his home in Fort Collins, about 60 miles north of Denver.
Authorities said the Heenes staged the hoax to get publicity for reality TV shows they were trying to pitch.
Eleven years later, the couple has now “paid the price in the eyes of the public” and shouldn’t have to be dragged down by a criminal record for the rest of their lives, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement Wednesday.
“We are all ready to move past the spectacle from a decade ago,” said Polis, a first-term Democrat.
Richard Heene served a month in jail after pleading guilty to a felony count of attempting to influence a public servant, and Mayumi Heene was jailed for 20 days for filing a false report.
They were also ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution.