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Balloon Boy's parents plead guilty

Richard and Mayumi Heene may see all their wishes come true, at Christmas-time.

The Fort Collins, Colo. couple who faked seven-year-old son's death-defying flight in a homemade weather balloon, are set to be sentenced for the hoax next month - two days before Christmas.

Given how completely the cable news networks, not to mention the millions of viewers, got duped last month by the Heene's camera-ready story that the silver, helium-filled balloon floating over the Colorado landscape contained their adorable little son, Falcon, who had stowed away inside and was likely a goner -- and the annual news drought that takes hold two days before Christmas -- it is extremely likely the Heene's Dec. 23 sentencing will be telecast around the world by the same cable news networks.

The Heenes pleaded guilty Friday to staging the Balloon Boy hoax, about three weeks after Mayumi Heene told investigators she and her husband lied to authorities and knew their son was not in the balloon but safely stashed away at home, according to a search warrant affidavit made public last month on the website of the Fort Collins newspaper, The Coloradoan.

(We already suspected as much since Falcon told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on international TV that he had hid in the family garage because his parents "said that we did this for a show" -- causing all hell to break loose).

"The motive for the fabricated story was to make the Heene family more marketable for future media interest" according to the affidavit.

The Heenes concocted the con game in hopes it would help them become stars of their own reality series. As their Balloon Boy Hoax unraveled, it was discovered the Heenes had been developing a reality series about their family with RDF Media USA, the same company that produces the ABC reality series "Wife Swap," on which the Heenes had appeared twice.

Richard and Mayumi Heene pleaded guilty Friday to a felony and a misdemeanor, respectively. The judge at Friday's hearing told the couple they may have to cough up some serious cash to various government agencies to cover the cost of effort to rescue Falcon. That fateful day, Falcon's parents had called 911, and the Federal Aviation Administration (and a local TV news outlet) to report their son was aboard the runaway balloon, causing authorities to shut down Denver International Airport -- ca-ching! -- and deploy National Guard helicopters in an attempt to pluck the balloon out of the air -- ca-ching!

Richard Heene pleaded guilty to attempting to influence a public servant -- a felony. Mayumi pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to authorities. They had agreed to this plea deal to so that prosecutors would not try to have Mayumi, who is a Japanese citizen, deported if convicted of a felony, Reuters reports.

Their attorney David Lane was quoted this week saying prosecutors had agreed to recommend sentences of probation, with the possibility of up to 60 days in the slammer for Mom, and 90 days for Dad.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  November 13, 2009; 5:51 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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Next: Oprah welcomes Palin to woo back viewers


I watched the Oprah/Palin interview in it's entirety ... Now that's what I call the proper way to conduct an interview....Ms. Winfrey did a fine job asking a variety of questions and Gov. Palin did equally as well with her words and substance as she responded. There were no underlying traps ready to be sprung, and the woman was allowed to respond as long as she wanted..... The balance of the interview is shown on it would be wise for Katie Couric to take a few lessons at Harpo Studios before attempting another interview.

Posted by: Spartann | November 16, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

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