Parents convicted in 2009 'balloon boy' hoax pardoned

Richard and Mayumi Heene leave court after sentencing in Fort Collins Colo

The couple told ABC News past year that it wasn't a hoax because they truly feared their son could have been aboard the balloon when they called for help.

After 13 years, the couple have now been granted a pardon by the governor of Colorado.

Richard and Mayumi Heene pleaded guilty in 2009 to the "balloon boy" hoax, which became a worldwide media sensation with millions watching live as the silver helium balloon drifted through the skies for 110km.

"You and your wife were involved in a very high profile incident that garnered attention across Colorado and across the country", Polis said in a letter to Richard Heene granting the pardon.

Their claims prompted search operations by two Colorado National Guard helicopters and dozens of emergency responders as video footage of the floating helium balloon made national news. The balloon eventually landed harmlessly in a wheat field with no sign of young Falcon.

The October 2009 incident ended after five hours when the grounded balloon was found to be empty and Falcon emerged from a hiding place at the family home.

Richard Heene's lawyer compared the hoax to the legendary 1938 radio show in which filmmaker Orson Welles made believe there was an invasion of Earth by Martians, and which caused panic. The boy was discovered safe at home, hiding in the attic. Authorities said the Heenes staged the ordeal to get publicity for reality TV shows they were trying to pitch. The pair had previously appeared on ABC's "Wife Swap".

Mayumi Heene pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to authorities, and Richard Heene pleaded guilty to a felony count of attempting to influence a public servant.

"In the case of Richard and Mayumi Heene, the "balloon boy" parents, we are all ready to move past the spectacle from a decade ago that wasted the precious time and resources of law enforcement officials and the general public", Gov. Polis said in a statement. The two were also fined to pay $36,000.

On Wednesday the couple, along with 20 other individuals convicted of unrelated crimes, received a pardon from Colorado's governor.

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