The "Balloon Boy" story will go down as one of 2009's most bizarre.
Richard and Mayumi Heene were sentenced to 90 and 20 days respectively for orchestrating a hoax where they called 911 and claimed their son, Falcon, had been whisked away inside a "flying saucer" they had made. Richard's sentence includes a work release option.
As soon as they called 911, search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched and the (literally) unbelievable story hit the news wires with a fury. Network news stations covered it live and it made all three national news networks that night.
The story quickly unraveled especially when Falcon told Wolf Blitzer when asked about what happened that "we did it for the show". The parents quickly tried to explain it away by saying he was merely confused due to appearing previously on a reality show and several (troubling) videos the parents uploaded on YouTube.
The parents seemed to revel in the attention, enjoying press conferences and taking questions from reporters in the form of written notes placed in a bucket.
It then emerged that the parents had pulled the stunt in the hopes of garnering themselves a reality show of their own- something they had been pitching to several networks for quite some time. The couple had instructed all three children to go along with the hoax (Falcon had been hiding in his home while the search went underway for the balloon, per his parents instructions).
Each parent has now admitted their part in the hoax (the risk of the mom's deportation to her native Japan was a factor) and apologized. Prosecutors have also stated the couple should repay the estimated nearly $50,000 it cost to launch the search and conduct the subsequent investigation.
Richard Heene admitted he was the brain-child behind the hoax and the details were all his. His wife merely went along with it at his request.
Each parent will be allowed to serve out their jail sentences at different times in order to have one parent at home with the children. Social services are investigating the couple to make sure the children are not in danger and are being well cared for.
Do you think the Heene's have really learned from this experiences? Do you think their sentence is fair? Should social services maintain a permanent active file on them?
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