Sheriff Says Criminal Charges Likely Over Balloon Incident

The sheriff leading the investigation into what happened with a runaway balloon and the little boy once feared to be an accidental passenger onboard said today that he anticipates charges will be filed in the case.

Larimer County, Colo., Sheriff Jim Alderden said in an impromptu news conference this evening that the investigation is progressing and the sheriff's office is obtaining a search warrant.

He did not say who would be charged or what the charges might be, but said the charges would likely be misdemeanors and the boy's parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, were not under arrest.

The sheriff gave few specifics, but did say that his office was looking into whether federal charges might be applicable or whether there might have been Federal Aviation Administration violations in the release of balloon Thursday.

VIDEO: Sheriff Says Criminal Charges Likely Over Balloon Incident
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"We were looking at Class 3 misdemeanor, which hardly seems serious enough given the circumstances," Alderden said. "We are talking to the district attorney, federal officials to see if perhaps there aren't additional federal charges that are appropriate in this circumstance."

When he was asked straight out whether he thought that what happened was a hoax, he declined to answer directly, saying only that reporters could "read between the lines."

The cryptic announcement came after a strange scene earlier in the day, when Richard Heene, the father of the boy and creator of the runaway helium "flying saucer" made an announcement to reporters outside his Ft. Collins, Colo., home, saying that he would not be taking questions ... except in writing.

After announcing a news conference for 10 a.m. Mountain time today, Heene emerged from his home carrying a cardboard box.

"I've got a box, and so later today, at 7:30, I want to meet you guys again," he said.

Heene was asked again if his Oct. 15 report that his 6-year-old son, Falcon, had been carried away in a balloon he had constructed in his backyard was a hoax.

"Absolutely no hoax," he said. "I want your questions in a box. I'll get right back to you. OK?"

Then, just moments after emerging with the box and leaving it behind for reporters' inquiries, Heene returned to his home.

Later, Heene addressed a different audience: sheriff's officers.

Heene met with investigators at Sheriff's Office headquarters around 2 p.m.

Colorado authorities announced Thursday that they would re-interview members of the family about the five-hour disappearance of Falcon Heene. Alderden said earlier that police continued to believe the Heene family's story that they feared the boy was aboard after their 20-foot-wide balloon launched accidentally.

But wide public skepticism, fueled by Falcon's statement on camera Thursday that "we did this for a show," persuaded authorities to reopen an investigation, Alderden said.

"We believe at this time that it was a real event. Certainly people are free to speculate," Alderden said.

The story began with the desperate voice of a father calling for help. It was Thursday afternoon, Oct. 15, and Heene was begging 911 dispatchers to help him find Falcon.

Click here to listen to the Heene's 911 call

But can that voice really be believed? A home video showed what happened just minutes before that emergency call.

The Heene family gathered around the balloon. The plan, said Richard Heene, an amateur scientist, was to see if the enormous balloon filled with helium would rise 20 feet in the air.

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