Attorney David Lane tends to take cases that have Big Picture, constitutional issues at stake: His clients in recent years have included Carol Kreck, who was arrested for protesting a John McCain campaign appearance, student journalist David McSwane, whose position was threatened after authorizing the famed f-Bush editorial, and, of course, former CU-Boulder professor Ward Churchill. So what the hell is he doing defending Richard Heene, patriarch of the Balloon Boy family, who'll likely be charged with hoaxing the public and authorities?
"I've been a criminal defense attorney for almost thirty years," he says. "And this is a criminal case."
True -- but it's not just any criminal case.
The amount of attention the Heene matter has received to date, and will continue to garner, is enormous -- and Lane is practiced at dealing with journalists, whether he or his adversaries are courting them. For instance, he's critical of Larimer County authorities for going public with their suspicions about Heene by way of media events over the weekend.
"I'm always concerned when the state is having a press conference directed at a citizen," he maintains. "And it's a cause of concern when you have law enforcement saying, 'We came close to crossing a line'" -- as Sheriff Jim Alderden did in regard to early claims that he and his crew believed the Heenes when they already had grave doubts. "That usually means they ran over the line several miles back."
At this point, Lane says, the Balloon Boy clan is in a holding pattern: "We're in the position of a batter standing in a batter's box waiting for a pitcher to throw." Still, he's worried about how an arrest will take place. In his words, "We don't want a perp walk where the Heenes are arrested in full view of their children. I think that's child abuse. I've received assurances from Larimer County that this won't happen, and I want to see if they're true to their word, or if they've lied again."
Yesterday, Alderden seemed to believe that only misdemeanor accusations would be leveled against the Heenes -- but less than 24 hours later, speculation has focused on felonies, complete with a potential for years' worth of jail time. Such an escalation is fairly common in matters of public fascination, but officials "need to be careful of their charges," Lane warns. "They're going to have to prove everything they charge. So a cautious prosecutor will not overreach."
He's just as censorious regarding rampant gab about removing Falcon and his siblings from the Heene home. "If there is some evidence of actual child abuse, that's one thing," Lane says. "But just speculating on somebody's opinion that they may not be the best parents in the world, it's not fair, and it's malicious. I think if there was some evidence that they've abused their children, Social Services should do something about it -- but obviously there isn't, or they would already have done so."
Lane expects charges to be filed later today or tomorrow, with court dates to follow. In the meantime, however, he tries to make his decision to take on the Heenes' cause seem routine. "I have two areas of practice," he says. "One is civil rights and one is criminal defense -- and this is criminal defense."
Of a very unusual kind.
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