DA: Sheriff cleared for comments in Colorado balloon case
DENVER, Colorado – Boulder County’s district attorney has decided no criminal charges are warranted against the sheriff who disclosed that child welfare workers were involved in the investigation in the runaway balloon case.
Richard Heene’s attorney, David Lane, claimed the revelation by Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden violated privacy laws.
Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, appointed as a special prosecutor to consider Lane’s complaint, said Tuesday that Alderden disclosed no information from the Department of Social Services.
Alderden said he wasn’t surprised by Garnett’s decision, adding that Lane’s complaint was typical of the attorney’s tactics of “attack, distract and discredit.”
Lane responded by saying, “When law enforcement breaks the law, I attack.” He added: “Unfortunately I usually have to rely on other law enforcement to do something about it.”
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Lane said he disagreed with the district attorney’s conclusion.
“This is a typical law enforcement investigating law enforcement whitewash,” he said. But he added there was nothing he could do about the decision.
The Heenes are under investigation for reporting that their 6-year-old son had drifted away on a homemade balloon that broke loose from its tethers Oct. 16 in Fort Collins. The report set off a mad scramble by police, firefighters, National Guard and media helicopters as the UFO-shaped balloon flew 50 miles across northern Colorado.
The balloon eventually crashed into a field, and authorities soon discovered no one was on board. That sparked fears the boy had fallen out until he was found safe at home. He said he had been hiding because he was afraid he was in trouble.
Alderden has accused the parents of lying and staging a hoax for publicity while trying to land a reality TV show. The Larimer County district attorney is considering whether to file charges against the family.
Lane said it’s just a matter of time before the Heenes are charged.