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'Balloon Family' dad has jail record

Oct. 19, 2009 at 5:02 PM   |   Comments

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FORT COLLINS, Colo., Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Richard Heene, the Colorado father at the center of the "Balloon Boy" incident, spent time in jail for a 1997 vandalism conviction, court records show.

Los Angeles court documents revealed that Heene was arrested in April 1997 for vandalism, vehicle tampering and disturbing the peace, pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, the New York Daily News reported Monday.

The newspaper said no details of the crimes were available. The records indicated Heene spent just 4 days in jail with the rest of his sentence served via house arrest.

A lawyer for Heene and his family is downplaying the possibility of charges being filed in last week's escaped balloon incident in Fort Collins, Colo.

Attorney David Lane said no charges have been filed and characterized the case being compiled by Larimer County sheriff's detectives as far from open-and-shut.

"The sheriff having a press conference saying that they're guilty does not make them so," Lane told CNN's "American Morning."

Sheriff Jim Alderen announced during the weekend that the family could be charged with perpetrating a hoax by reporting that their 6-year-old son, Falcon, was aboard the homemade saucer-shaped mylar balloon that went sailing over Colorado last week.

Investigators suspect the incident was a publicity stunt aimed at securing a reality television show for the family, who previously appeared on "Wife Swap."

Lane told CNN that the Heenes were definitely upset at the allegations and the attention from authorities.

"Your state of mind would be rather upset and you would feel somewhat under siege, which is exactly how the family feels at this point," he said.

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