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Heenes face felony charges over balloon “publicity stunt … for a reality TV show”

The balloon boy saga that played out live on cable television on Thursday was ultimately all about getting a reality show, according to police. Balloon boy’s parents Richard and Mayumi Heene may be charged with a felony for what police now say is a stunt–and what their own kid said was “for the show.”

Sheriff Jim Alderden told reporters Sunday that everything that happened “has been a hoax. It was a publicity stunt done with hopes of better maneuvering themselves for a reality TV show.” He said that during the investigation, “It became very evident to us they were lying.”

It became very clear to all of us they were lying Thursday night, when balloon boy–or, as Bill Maher suggested Friday, attic boy–Falcon basically said that on CNN, causing his dad to freak out.

The Denver Post reports that they “are under investigation on suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, trying to influence a public official and providing false information to authorities,” and “face up to six years in prison and a fine of as much as $500,000 on each of two felony counts.”

If Falcon’s statement, the video of the balloon being launched with a countdown and no kid in sight, or the impending charges aren’t enough evidence of a hoax, there’s now background thanks to someone who worked for the Heenes, helping them work on their reality show proposal, which they pitched to TLC and to RDF USA, the company that produces Wife Swap, which the Heenes appeared on twice.

Robert Thomas, a 25-year-old who worked as a researcher for the Heenes earlier this year, told his story to Gawker, which paid him for it (he wanted $5K to $8K). He says he helped Richard Heene create the reality show proposal, which consisted of 52 episodes descriptions.

Police now want to talk to Robert Thomas, who told Gawker that Richard Heene “wanted nothing more than to get another reality TV series” and “was pitching something along the lines of ‘MythBusters-meets-mad scientist.’ There would be these esoteric abstract experiments attempting to prove or disprove various theories.” Thomas also says Heene “was often driven by ego and fame. He was all about controversy, hoping to whip up something significant enough to eliminate our reality TV competitors. He wanted episodes that would shock people and maximize his exposure. And he’d been trying for months. On several occasions, he sat down and told me he’d do whatever it took to make it happen — to win. He eventually resorted to extreme measures.”

In the proposal–a term that should be used loosely since it’s just a description of episodes–the outline for episode 16 is the most curious, and by “curious” I actually mean “incredibly damning”:

“16. Can we attract UFO’s with a homemade flying saucer? We will modify a weather balloon, so that it resembles a UFO and will electrically charge the skin of the craft (Biefield-Brown Effect). We will capture the footage on film, and will utilize the media as a means with which to make our presence known to the masses. This will not only provide us with incredible footage, but will also generate a tremendous amount of controversy among the public, as well as publicity within the mainstream media. This will be the most significant UFO-related news event to take place since the Roswell Crash of 1947, and the result will be a dramatic increase in local and national awareness about The Heene Family, our Reality Series, as well as the UFO Phenomenon in general.

Fort Collins parents face felony charges in “balloon boy” case [Denver Post]
Exclusive: I Helped Richard Heene Plan a Balloon Hoax [Gawker]

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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