Balloon Boy Couple Pleads Guilty - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Balloon Boy Couple Pleads Guilty

(CNN) -- The Colorado couple who said their 6-year-old son was aboard an escaped balloon pleaded guilty Friday to charges related to the well-publicized "balloon boy" hoax.

Richard Heene pleaded guilty in Larimer County Court to a felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant. His wife, Mayumi Heene, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to authorities.

The Heenes' attorneys said earlier that prosecutors had agreed to a sentence of probation with the possibility of up to 90 days in jail for Richard Heene and up to 60 days in jail for his wife.

The incident occurred in October, when a large silver balloon came loose from its moorings in the Heenes' yard and drifted over eastern Colorado. Mayumi Heene called 911 and said the couple's 6-year-old son, Falcon, was inside the craft.

Millions of people across the country watched the saga on television for nearly two hours as military aircraft tracked the balloon in the air and rescuers chased it below.

Mayumi Heene later admitted the whole thing was a hoax and that their son Falcon was safe in their home the whole time, authorities said.

The couple's attorneys have said that the threat of Mayumi Heene's deportation was a factor in the plea deal negotiations.

Mayumi Heene is a Japanese citizen but is in the United States legally.

"Even though Mr. Heene would have a triable case, I believe, to avoid the risk that his wife is deported ... we have decided that the best course of action is to proceed as we are proceeding," Richard Heene's lawyer, David Lane, said Friday.

The judge is allowing the Heenes to leave the state while they remain on bond. Lane said Richard Heene is going to seek employment in New York and also has plans to go to California. Mayumi Heene's attorney said she may accompany him on those trips.

Sentencing will be next month.

Court documents released last month said the couple hatched the plan about two weeks before the incident and "instructed their three children to lie to authorities as well as the media regarding this hoax."

It said their motive was to "make the Heene family more marketable for future media interests," the documents said.

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta
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