NEW YORK (CBS) The issue of what may happen to the three children of "balloon-boy" parents Richard and Mayumi Heene has taken a new legal turn.
Lawyers for the Heenes are calling for a "criminal action" against Sheriff James Alderden, accusing him of violating Colorado confidentiality statutes that deal with reports of child abuse or neglect.
The allegation comes in an Oct. 26 letter to the Larimer County, Co. District Attorney's Office, saying Sheriff Alderden has repeatedly spoken publicly about "an alleged child welfare investigation" concerning the Heene family, and suggesting such comments are a "class I misdemeanor" under state law.
The letter also asserts the Heenes' three children "are in no danger whatsoever."
The district attorney's office had not responded to the Heene lawyers' complaint as of Monday evening.
In an email to major media outlets that was accompanied by a copy of the letter to the D.A., Heene attorney David Lane wrote, "It is our belief that the Sheriff [Alderden] has engaged in a concerted effort to prevent the Heene's(sic) from possibly receiving a fair trial in this matter."
As an example of Alderden's remarks which the Heene lawyers say warrant a criminal investigation, their letter to the D.A. cited an Oct. 21 story on Crimesider, which began as follows: "Richard and Mayumi Heene, in all their alleged balloon boy hoax glory, have been reported to child protective services in Colorado, according to Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden."
At an Oct. 18 news conference, Alderden said, "Clearly, from all indications, Mr. Heene has somewhat of a temper."
"We have a concern, but we didn't have enough that would allow us or child protective services to physically take the kids from that environment," the sheriff added.
In his email to the media, Lane wrote that the statements of Sheriff Alderden are "designed to further fuel the public frenzy against the Heenes and insure that they will be convicted in the court of public opinion before any charges are even filed in this matter."
Alderden has said that he will recommend criminal charges against the Heenes including conspiracy, making a false report to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant, after the couple created a national media and law-enforcement frenzy on Oct. 15, with the release of their experimental silver helium weather balloon. At the time, authorities believed that 6-year old Falcon Heene was along for an unplanned, and harrowing journey.
That suspicion was all gone with the wind after Falcon was found safe and sound.
MORE ON CRIMESIDER
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October 19, 2009 Balloon Boy Dad Richard Heene, Not His First Close Encounter With the Law
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