2009 Hall of Shame

Richard and Mayumi Heene

They did it for the show! And for a few days this fall, it was the greatest show not just on earth, but in the airspace above. On October 15, Richard and Mayumi Heene — veterans of the reality TV series Wife Swap — called authorities (after contacting Channel 9) to report that their six-year-old son, Falcon, might be floating over Colorado inside a homemade, helium-filled Mylar balloon. Viewers around the world were riveted to TV coverage for hours, with the fate of the boy literally up in the air – but when the balloon finally landed (after snarling traffic at Denver International Airport), Falcon wasn't inside. The boy was later discovered hiding in his parents' garage attic, and later revealed in a CNN interview that his father had told him to do it for "the show." Within days, the Heenes admitted that they'd staged the emergency stunt in an effort to get back onto reality TV — and in a way, they got their wish: For a few hours, Balloon Boy was the highest-rated reality show around. In November, Richard pleaded guilty to attempting to influence a public servant, a felony, while Mayumi copped to false reporting, a misdemeanor. On December 23, Richard was sentenced to thirty days in jail and sixty days of work release; Mayumi got twenty days of jail-supervised community service. The couple will also have to pay at least $47,000 in restitution.

Kristen Parker

It's one thing to ruin your own life. It's something else entirely to wantonly ruin the lives of 35 or more hospital patients who were relying on you to help make them better — not worse. Kristen Parker, a former operating-room tech at Rose Medical Center, knew there was a good chance she was infected with hepatitis C when she stole syringes full of the painkiller fentanyl and replaced them with needles that she'd used to inject herself. And when the truth trickled out, nearly 5,000 people who'd had surgery at Rose between October 2008 and April 2009 flooded the place with panicked phone calls as they tried to find out if they could have contracted the disease as well. The tattoo- and motorcycle-loving Parker pleaded guilty in September to numerous charges and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 22, 2010, for a prison term of up to twenty years — a lot less than the lifetime of hep C medications and complications that her victims will face.

Jay Cutler

He's been called a pussy, a douchebag and a little bitch — and that's just by the media and his teammates, so you can only imagine what Denver Broncos fans thought when then-QB Jay Cutler waged a testosterone-fueled battle with equally arrogant rookie coach Jay McDaniels this past spring. Within days, Cutler was gone to the Chicago Bears, and as the season unfolded, the coach gained some fans while the interception-prone former franchise QB lost many, both in Denver and Chicago. Ripped for his nonchalant attitude and on-field whiny, pouty behavior, Cutler may be regretting the kudos he layered on Chicago — at the expense of the orange-and-blue faithful — early on when he said: "In Denver, we didn't have this many fans at all. That's Chicago Bears fans for you. They're proud of their Bears.... Denver's like a 6 and Chicago's like a 9. It's quite a bit different. Just the fans and how passionate they are, that's probably the biggest difference." See ya, Jay. We didn't realize how much we wouldn't miss you.

Dave Schultheis

Politicians frequently put their feet in their big mouths, then apologize for their gaffes, blunders, insults or outright stupidity ("You lie!"). But only someone truly special can proudly say something horrible three times in a year, never seeming to learn from his mistakes. State senator Dave Schultheis, a Colorado Springs Republican, is just that sort of special politician. In February, he criticized the Colorado Department of Transportation for trying to protect the lives of Latinos, saying the agency was wasting money by running Spanish-language PSAs warning drivers to fasten their seatbelts. "All these ads are going to do is provide one more assimilation off-ramp for new arrivals. Bilingualism in our buckle-up ads — just like bilingualism in our schools — will only encourage the further balkanization of our culture," he pronounced. That same month, the senator took out his anger on AIDS-infected babies. "What I'm hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that," he said while discussing a bill that would have required pregnant women to be tested for HIV — and possibly stop its spread from mother to child. "The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity, and it may make a number of people over the coming years begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior." But it was a recent tweet from Schultheis, who is retiring after the 2010 legislative session, that made national headlines, when he appeared to compare President Barack Obama to the 9/11 terrorists: "@Sen_Schultheis: Don't for a second think Obama wants what is best for U.S. He is flying the US Plane right into the ground at full speed. Let's Roll."

Schultheis, let's retire.

Dan Hawkins

What? How could University of Colorado head football coach Dan Hawkins rate the Hall of Shame when his team nearly made it to a bowl game? Wait. What? The Buffs went 3-9 (including losses to Toledo, Iowa State, Kansas State) and weren't even close to bowl-game contention? You would never have known that if you just listened to the coach — a man who can rationalize, and rationalize, and rationalize just about anything. "I think it's one of those seasons where if you take away ten plays, you are probably a bowl team," Hawkins told the press. Maybe ten plays in each quarter of each game. Other lowlights included Hawkins's refusal to bench his poorly playing son, Cody, until early October, and prize recruit Darrell Scott's decision to flee Boulder. Oh well, at least no one got raped by a Buff this year (we hope). "You're always going to have failures and setbacks in your life, and you have to be able to take that energy towards getting better and moving on. It's okay to hurt," the coach said at one point. "That's part of it, and you want that, but you've got to push that hurt in the right direction." And there will be plenty more hurt to come, since CU inexplicably decided to bring Hawkins back for another year.

Shawn Merriman

God must love Picasso paintings and Aston Martins, because the temple that former Mormon bishop Shawn Merriman built was full of fancy cars and expensive artwork — at least until it all came crashing down. In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Merriman, an unlicensed investment broker, accusing him of running a Ponzi scheme that had bilked dozens of investors out of $21 million over fifteen years. In August, he was arrested and charged with felony mail fraud, much to the delight of his former clients, some of whom had lost their savings to Merriman's 400-piece art collection, his homes and his classic cars. Merriman, who lives in Aurora, pleaded guilty in December and could face twenty years in prison when he is sentenced this spring.

Erwin Vermont Washington

That's cockpit, not cocktail pit. It wasn't turbulence that delayed United flight 949 from London to Chicago in November. No, it was allegedly tipsy pilot Erwin Vermont Washington, of Lakewood, who was arrested at Heathrow Airport before the plane took off. Washington, who was acting strangely, had barricaded himself in the cockpit, and a crew member alerted authorities; Washington reportedly failed a breathalyzer test. Details of the case — including Washington's current whereabouts (United has suspended him) — are sketchy; Washington is due in court in London on January 3. No doubt the 124 passengers who were scheduled to fly with him will drink to that.

An early resolution for shameful Coloradans ranging from the Heene family to Washington: Straighten up and fly right.