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Parents convicted in 'balloon boy' hoax pardoned by Colorado governor

Richard and Mayumi Heene reported that their 6-year-old son floated away in a UFO-shaped balloon above Fort Collins in 2009.
Balloon Boy Parents Sentenced For Their October Hoax
Richard and Mayumi Heene walk out of the courtroom after their sentencing hearing in Fort Collins, Colo., on Dec. 23, 2009.Chris Schneider / Getty Images file

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday pardoned a couple who were convicted of staging a hoax that captivated the nation more than a decade ago.

Richard and Mayumi Heene reported that their 6-year-old son — who became known as “balloon boy” — had floated away in a homemade, duct-taped silver helium balloon shaped like a UFO above Fort Collins in 2009.

The incident temporarily shut down Denver International Airport and prompted local authorities and the National Guard to deploy military helicopters on a rescue search that cost at least $14,500.

Falcon Heene was later discovered unharmed, hiding in the attic of his family’s home in Fort Collins, about 60 miles north of Denver.

Falcon Heene
Falcon Heene, 6, outside his family's home in Fort Collins, Colo., after he was found hiding in a box in a space above the garage on Oct. 15, 2009.David Zalubowski / AP file

Authorities said the false report was a publicity stunt to land a reality television show for the Heene family.

Eleven years after the debacle, Polis, who pardoned or commuted the sentences of 20 other people, said the family had “paid the price in the eyes of the public.”

“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,” Polis said in a statement on Wednesday. “It’s time for all of us to move on.”

NBC News previously reported that the couple's three sons knew of the hoax at the time but were not charged because they were minors.

Richard Heene pleaded guilty for attempting to influence a public servant and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, while Mayumi Heene pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for filing a false report and was sentenced to 20 days in jail.

Image: Richard Heene holds his son Falcon Heene, 6.
Richard Heene holds his son Falcon Heene, 6, at home in Fort Collins, Colo. on Oct. 15, 2009.Cyrus McCrimmon / Denver Post via Getty Images

At the time of the incident, Richard said the family pleaded guilty to protect his wife, who was a Japanese citizen at risk of deportation.

David Lane, the attorney who helped the family apply for a pardon, said that after more than a decade, the “balloonacy was finally over,” the Denver Post reported.

Lane did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Richard told the Denver Post that he was excited the governor wiped his slate clean.

“This is like a new launch,” he said. “I’m flying high.”