Page last updated at 19:54 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

US balloon boy parents are given jail sentences


Richard Heene apologises in court

A US man who triggered a major alert by falsely claiming his son was adrift in a helium balloon has been sentenced to 90 days in jail - and his wife to 20.

Richard Heene, 48, and his 45-year-old wife Mayumi said in October their son had been carried off by the balloon.

Six-year-old Falcon Heene was finally found hiding at home.

In court in Colorado, Heene appeared to fight back tears as he apologised to rescue workers and the community, saying he was "very, very sorry".

The judge also ordered four years of supervised probation for the couple and banned them from receiving any form of financial benefit from the case.

Heene and his wife Mayumi had pleaded guilty to charges that they carried out the balloon stunt to promote a reality TV show.

'Wasted money'

The prosecutor had argued the couple should face time in jail to act as a deterrent to others who may be considering mounting similar stunts for financial gain and publicity.

Richard and Mayumi Heene
Prosecutors had asked for a jail sentence to deter others

He said Heene had "wasted a lot of man power and a lot of money in wanting to get himself some publicity".

He argued that the couple had acted not on the behest of any TV companies, but that "they came up with it all on their own, not necessarily just to get a TV show but at least to put their name out there again and maybe in hopes that somebody would pick them up".

"For that," he said, "they do need to be punished".

Richard Heene will be allowed to serve 60 days of his 90-day sentence on release, allowing him to work as a construction contractor during the day, while spending the night in jail.

He will start his sentence on 11 January 2010.

Mayumi Heene will begin her sentence after her husband's to ensure their children are still cared for.

She will be allowed to report to jail on two days a week, return home at night, and serve the sentence through jail-supervised community service.

The judge also ruled that her husband must serve 100 hours of community service and write a letter of apology to the community and public service agencies which helped search for his son.

The couple have already been ordered to pay $42,000 (£26,000) in restitution for the emergency services' rescue efforts.

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