So there was a press conference yesterday after all, but it wasn’t Richard Heene’s. After a day of questioning Heene and his wife, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden announced that criminal charges will be filed against them in the big balloon chase. Alderden says they haven’t decided which charges yet: “We were looking at Class 3 misdemeanor, which hardly seems serious enough given the circumstances. We are talking to the district attorney, federal officials to see if perhaps there aren’t additional federal charges that are appropriate in this circumstance.” Filing a false report with police is a Class 3 misdemeanor. His office is looking into possible FAA violations.
Alderden didn’t specify what he was basing the charges on, but when they supposedly believed that their son was floating off in a runaway mylar balloon, the Heenes called a local TV station before they called 911. A former associate has also come forward in a paid interview with Gawker with a claim that he and Heene planned to release a balloon modified to look like a UFO to drum up publicity for a possible science tv series.
Other bits of publicity Heene could probably have done without: the sheriff’s department reporting a suspected domestic violence 911 call to the Heene home, a violent Wife Swap-related toilet paper attack, and former business partners who say they stopped working with him because he was putting his children in danger by deliberately exposing them to hurricanes and tornados. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office has contacted child protective services.
The Heene house was searched by the sheriff’s department last night. There have been no arrests so far.
aaaaaand, it’s a felony. The Sheriff’s Department is recommending conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, false reporting to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant. If the DA decides to go ahead, almost a foregone conclusion, law enforcement agencies involved in the balloon chase will go after the Heenes for the full amount of their costs. They’re still looking into federal charges with the FBI and FAA.
Alderden said that it was a hoax, for the purpose of publicity, and both his department and the media were manipulated. He said all three children knew about the hoax, but because of their ages none are being charged.
Mayumi Heene was encouraged to take her kids to a domestic violence safe house, but she declined.
Richard Heene says it’s “convoluted.” Ya think?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 18, 2009