That cheer you might be hearing in the background could be coming from the Americans who are delighted that the parents who carried out the “balloon boy” hoax have been sentenced to jail time. They also face strict probation restrictions that forbid them from earning any money from the spectacle for at least four years. Most of us wish it could be longer.
Richard Heene was sentenced to 90 days in jail, including 60 days of work release that will let him pursue his job as a construction contractor while serving his time. His wife, Mayumi, got 20 days in jail. It’s reasonable to let the man work to feed his family, but not via sham.
Heene, a noted attention-seeker, played it to the hilt by choking back tears while telling a judge he was sorry, particularly for the rescue workers who chased down the false reports that his 6-year-old son had floated away on a homemade balloon on Oct. 15. It soon was revealed that the stunt was designed to gain attention and possibly a reality television show for the family.
Now how about the enormous cost of the needless rescue effort? Chief Deputy District Attorney Andrew Lewis in Fort Collins, Colo., has asked for full restitution to authorities for the cost of investigating the hoax. That figure is due to top $50,000, and Heene should be forced to repay every penny of it. The same penalty should apply to risk-takers who court disaster with storms, avalanches and high seas when they are warned that such conditions exist.
Considering all the attention the Heenes got, international in scope, there is always the danger that others will be encouraged to try for the same kind of notoriety with other stunts. This comment by entertainer Jay Leno capsulized that: “This is a copycat game. People will copycat this event and need to go to jail so people don’t do that.”
We can hope that jail time for the Heenes and the order to cover the debt they incurred with their project will discourage new foolishness of this nature.