Balloon boy’s dad dashes into jail without a word
FORT COLLINS – There was no last second proclamation of innocence or even a statement to the handful of reporters waiting in the freezing cold for the man who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the balloon boy hoax.
Richard Heene arrived at the Larimer County Detention Center on Monday with his wife and co-defendant, Mayumi, in the couple’s red minivan with a busted-out rear window. Heene, wearing a dark knit cap, sunglasses and a heavy jacket, ran inside the building carrying a plastic grocery bag.
He ran back to the minivan and grabbed his driver’s license before heading back to the jail to begin serving a 90-day sentence for the Oct. 15 event that captivated a television audience for an entire afternoon.
Mayumi Heene, who pleaded guilty to filing a false report and must serve a 20-day jail term once her husband is out, pulled the hood of her sweatshirt over her head and drove away alone.
“He’s in general population already,” said Larimer County sheriff’s spokeswoman Eloise Campanella. “The marching orders are, ‘Treat him like any other inmate.”‘
During a media blitz last week, Richard Heene said he truly believed his 6-year-old son Falcon was inside the metallic balloon that floated away from his backyard. He said he pleaded guilty only to appease authorities and save his wife from being deported to Japan.
Authorities said Mayumi Heene confessed to deputies, but Richard Heene told The Associated Press last week that his wife misunderstood the meaning of the word “hoax” when she purportedly admitted her crime.
“My wife’s first language is Japanese, not English,” he said. “My wife came home in tears wondering what she might have said. She opened this Japanese-to-English dictionary, and she walks up to me crying her head off, and she says to me, ‘I thought hoax meant an exhibition.”‘
In other interviews last week, Heene said investigators presented inconsistencies to the media, and he denied calling a TV station before dialing 911, as authorities said he did.
Authorities dismissed Heene’s arguments.
District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said it was the Heenes and their attorneys, not prosecutors, who brought up the issue of deportation.
“We had been working with the attorneys for both he and his wife before charges were even filed,” Abrahamson said. “There was a lot of discussion about what was going to happen, about how and why. We were surprised that now he’s coming out and saying that it wasn’t a hoax.”
Sheriff Jim Alderden said Mayumi Heene understands English better than her husband says she does.
“The interview was much more than, ‘Mayumi, is this a hoax?’ and she admitted to it. She went into the details of it,” Alderden told the AP last week.
Mayumi Heene’s statement to investigators – in which she detailed the couple’s efforts to pitch a television show, their financial difficulties, and their actions in the weeks leading up to the event – makes up the bulk of their case against the couple.
The Heenes must also pay restitution for the rescue effort that sent officers from two counties and other agencies scrambling. The Colorado National Guard launched two helicopters to track the balloon and possibly rescue the boy. Prosecutors estimate the Heenes owe $48,000, though Richard Heene’s attorney could provide a different estimate by a Jan. 25 deadline.
Richard Heene also faces an $11,000 civil penalty from the Federal Aviation Administration. The balloon briefly shut down a runway at Denver International Airport.
He must serve 30 days before he can participate in the jail’s work release program.
Sheriff’s investigators suspected the family’s claims that Falcon Heene was inside the balloon were a hoax after Falcon declared in a CNN interview that “we did this for the show.” The boy hid for five hours in the garage as the saga unfolded.
Alderden said that Falcon’s comments had clearly “raised everybody’s level of skepticism.”
Asked about whether Falcon feels to blame for his parents’ jail sentences, Richard Heene said: “First off, we never presented the idea that that statement caused anything, so he’s completely unaware of that, in that arena. We’ve done that because it wouldn’t be fair to him, it’s just, it’s not.
“We don’t have cable. The kids don’t watch. And the reason why we disconnected the cable is because there’s so much negative news out there. Well, now I’m a part of it.”
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