Monday, October 19, 2009

Is the Sheriff in the Balloon Boy Hoax Case Actually Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons?

The AP has a story today suggesting the sheriff in the Balloon Boy Hoax case is very dumb indeed.

First of all, he fell for a story that was absurd on its face. There is no way anyone would believe that little piece of silver foil would have enough hot air or helium or whatever it was was supposed to be in it to displace its own weight, along with the weight of a six year-old boy. Anyone who's seen the lead balloon episode of "Mythbusters" knows enough about buoyancy to see that the balloon supposedly carrying Balloon Boy could not have held his weight.

If the sheriff had watched Mythbusters, he wouldn't look so foolish now.

So, sheriff Jim Alderden wasted a lot of time and resources going after something that was transparently ridiculous. Someone who falls for something that stupid should maybe sulk off in a corner and wait until the whole thing blows over.

Or, he could pursue charges against the family that played him for a fool.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden announced Sunday that he's seeking charges, including felonies, against Richard and Mayumi Heene. Alderden said the stunt two weeks in the planning was a marketing ploy by the Heenes, who met in acting school in Hollywood and have twice appeared on ABC's reality show "Wife Swap."

"We certainly know that there's a conspiracy between the husband and wife, you've probably seen some of the e-mails and some of the things on the Internet suggesting that there may be other conspirators," Alderden said.

Emphasis added because you just know how diabolical those Hollywood acting class students can be!

The "things on the Internet" refers to the Gawker article I wrote about yesterday. That is some brilliant policework on the part of sheriff Alderden. He displays even more brilliant investigative technique when he describes how he finally figured out the Heenes' cunning plan:

Alderden said investigators had an "aha" moment that the story was a hoax when Falcon turned to his father during a CNN interview Thursday and said what sounded like "you had said we did this for a show" when asked why he didn't come out of his hiding place.

So it wasn't until Balloon Boy misspoke in a CNN interview that he finally realized he'd been punked? Bear in mind-- this was long after the balloon had landed.

Once investigators got a good look at the "flying saucer" they determined that the thin mylar balloon covered with foil and held together with duct tape would not have been able to launch with the 37-pound-boy inside, according to Colorado State University physics professor Brian Jones.

Thin mylar covered in foil and held together with duct tape. That's what the balloon was made of. But that wasn't enough to give it away. No-- sheriff Alderden didn't figure out it was a hoax until Balloon Boy himself made his "you said that we did this for the show" comment.

As Chief Wiggum would say, "That's some nice work, boys."

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden.

And remember when sheriff Alderden said that he believed the Balloon Boy incident was a "real event"? Well, that was just another example of his fantastic police work:

Alderden said they didn't question the family Friday because they wanted to keep the family's cooperation by maintaining the appearance that they believed their story. That's the same day the sheriff gave a press conference in which he said he believed the saga was a "real event." He said Sunday that those assurances were part of his effort to keep the family's trust.

Of course it was a "real event." It happened, didn't it?

Because Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden didn't put the brakes on the investigation early-- within a few minutes anyone should have been able to see that balloon couldn't hold a six year-old child-- a lot of time and money was wasted, resulting in some inconvenience.
Some flights at Denver International Airport had to be changed to a different runway, but the airport remained open during the balloon's flight, airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said Monday. Previous reports said the airport was temporarily shut down.

The National Guard provided two helicopters in an attempt to rescue the child, costing several thousand dollars. When the balloon landed without the boy, officials thought he had fallen out and began the grim search for his body.

Emphasis added to that last sentence because they kept looking for the boy even after the silly balloon made of mylar, foil, and duct tape for crying out loud actually landed.

"Officials" thought he'd fallen out of the balloon!

That's some nice work, boys.

More nice police work from sheriff Alderden: He's all but accused Richard Heene, who is I think it's safe to say a crackpot, of abusing his wife and kids.

Alderden said officials tried Saturday to persuade Mayumi Heene, 45, to go to a safe house, but she declined.

Alderden said the children were still with the parents Sunday and that child protective services had been contacted to investigate their well-being. On "Wife Swap," Heene was portrayed as erratic, at one point throwing a glass of milk on a participant on the program.

"Clearly, from all indications, Mr. Heene has somewhat of a temper," Alderden said.

That's some nice work. He saw an episode of "Wife Swap," a reality television show in which participants are encouraged to "ham it up" for the cameras, and now sheriff Alderden feels it's "clear" that "Mr. Heene has somewhat of a temper." For crying out loud, if it weren't for Gawker, Wife Swap, or CNN, this guy couldn't get anything done. Are any crimes that aren't covered in the national media ever solved in this city?

The authors of the AP article try to give him some cover, by offering more smears of Richard Heene:

Records show that police have responded to the house at least twice in the past year, including a possible domestic violence incident in February. No charges were filed.

That is the AP's crack reporting. Records show that police have "responded to the house" (did the house call the police?), but we're never told what for. Only ominously that one was "a possible domestic violence incident" (not explained) for which "no charges were filed." In other words, they got nothing.

Chief Wiggum.

But do we have any more examples of sheriff Jim Alderden's crack police work? Well, if you look around on the internet a little bit, you find that Alderden's apparently been a bit of an as shole for awhile. Get a load of this: He likes to harass bicyclists:

In one recent column on the sheriff's website, Alderden wrote: "Don't you just love this time of year, when the birds, boats and cyclists come out? Well, two out of three ain't bad."

This spring, Alderden's traffic deputies stepped up their efforts to rein in those they saw as violators -- cyclists who rode two abreast, requiring motorists to edge into oncoming lanes to avoid them.

Among those stopped in May were a pair of riders from Boulder. They said Deputy Brian Ficker told them he didn't appreciate Boulder cyclists riding in his county and told them to return there or face a ticket.
Alderden disputed their account. "It wasn't 'Get out of Dodge,' " he said. "He told them, 'This is the law. You might get away with it in Boulder County, but in Larimer County, we enforce the statutes.' "
"There's a sense of entitlement to do whatever they want: They're environmentally conscious, and everyone else is a fat pig," he said.

But the flap also revealed a division of opinion over the law.

State law permits cyclists to ride two abreast, as long as they don't impede the normal flow of traffic.

To Alderden, that meant they should move into single file if a car approached.

That's some nice work, boys.

He also used a blog he writes for the county website (BullsEye) to decry the "war on Christmas," and described the time he wasted in fighting it:

"The fact that we are even engaged in a discourse of whether Christmas trees and Christian symbols of faith should be allowed on city property is absurd. When one is sliding down a slippery slope, there comes a time to dig in your heels, grab the nearest branch, and hold on for dear life. Our country, and sadly our own community, has reached that point where people of faith and good conscience can no longer stand silently while a belligerent minority usurps our heritage and dictates how and where we express our religious freedoms. It is time to make a statement – to grab that branch, in this case a pine bough," he said.

Is this something over which a sheriff should concern himself? There's nothing better for him to be doing? There's concern over the time and resources wasted over the Balloon Boy hoax, and he's fighting the War on Christmas? Well, he could be harassing people who provide medical marijuana:

Medical marijuana – in the Colorado Constitution! What a mess.

The LCSO has had several high profile cases recently where we’ve investigated large scale marijuana grows. We’ve come under quite a bit of criticism for enforcing the laws against drug dealing when it comes to marijuana. The blog sites are ripping us. The people who write that stuff appear to be morons – or stoned. But I repeat myself.

Personally, I think legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes was a mistake. The FDA has not approved smoking marijuana for any medical condition or disease. On the contrary, they determined that there were no sound scientific studies that support the medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United Sates. The American Medical Association has not endorsed the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Nor have the legitimate medical associations.

Marijuana users are morons! Ha- that sheriff Jim Alderden could be a comedian if the whole "sheriff" thing doesn't work out. In fact there are plenty of "sound scientific studies support[ing] the medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States."

But then, sheriff Jim Alderden is the guy who fell for the Balloon Boy hoax.

That's some nice work, boys.

UPDATE 10/20/09 @10:45 AM PST: Via Mediaite, sheriff Jim Alderden appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" last night and came across as articulate, if mildly incompetent:

O'Reilly, proprietor of the "No Spin Zone," could have asked the sheriff why he wasn't made immediately suspicious by the fact that the mother's 911 call said that her son had gone up in a "spaceship that had launched from their backyard." He also didn't ask why the search wasn't called off as soon as they'd gotten a look at the balloon-- why couldn't they tell there was no way it could have held a six year-old boy? He didn't ask why they thought the boy might have fallen out of said balloon once the thing had landed and they'd been able to examine it up close.

He does ask him how much the sheriff's department is going "to ask them to reimburse." But he doesn't ask how much money Alderden has wasted in enforcing his interpretation of Colorado's bicycle laws, his loose interpretation of Colorado's medical marijuana laws, or fighting against the "war on Christmas."

Chief Wiggum pic source.
sheriff Alderden pic source.


shampoo said...

you know what crazy dad is taking from this? he probably thinks he should have put the kid in the balloon. I am quite relieved that he was incapable of producing a balloon able to carry the boy.

as far as the stupid sheriff... one thing that would have crossed my mind when I got the call is the scenario in which the kid accidentally freed the balloon and then hid somewhere (probably nearby) in order to avoid punishment (this doesn't necessarily mean the expected punishment would be abusive). this would be before factoring in crazy dad just because it's so much more likely.

Ricky Sprague said...

The father seems a bit, shall we say, unconventional. The sheriff seems a incompetent. I think the sheriff comes out of this looking far worse. He should have handled this better, because it's his job. If he couldn't see through this nonsense, how can he be trusted to investigate anything?

shampoo said...

exactly. I didn't really watch the coverage so i'm not sure what was done to find the kid, but I can't see why they didn't search the immediate area (house, garage, etc.). I don't mean ONLY search the area, but put that high on the list. maybe the kid's playing just out of earshot and the stupid balloon got loose and those two things aren't connected. finding the kid is priority. after the balloon is proven unoccupied, then just dispose of the silly thing. granted, the sheriff should have been much better at his job. well, criminals now know where to go because investigating things (other than not being able to put up christmas trees willy nilly) is not the sheriff's thing.