Pair charged in UFO hoax

April 2, 2009 9:26:03 PM PDT
The mystery of red lights that appeared in the sky over New Jersey a few months ago has now been solved. Two men have come forward to say they behind the lights that sparked 911 calls. They even videotaped themselves doing it.

"Here we have five flares and five weather balloons, about to do our little hoax and see if we can get some attention here," Chris Russo said on the tape.

On three different nights, Russo, a salesman, and science teacher Joe Rudy took elaborate measurers to launch helium-filled balloons with flares into the sky above Morristown. They called it a social experiment on how to create your own media event surrounding UFO sightings.

"Plain and simple, it's a gullibility experiment to get a reaction from people," Russo said. "Might be no reaction, or a huge reaction."

Each night of the hoax, nervous residents all over Morris County flooded 911 dispatch with calls. To stoke the their hoax even further, after they launched their balloons, they'd call the news media to report a UFO sighting.

"There are really strange lights in Morristown," Rudy phoned on the video. "Doesn't look like a plane or anything."

Every step of their hoax was carefully documented. And on April Fool's Day, they posted it all on the "eSkeptic" Web site. The question is, did their prank cross any legal lines. The FAA had expressed concern early on that the balloons were in the flight path of planes at Morristown Airport. Also, New Jersey has specific laws that deals with anyone who creates a public disturbance.

"If you intentionally create a disturbance, and that sending balloons with flares into the sky and calling police arguably does that, then you can be charged criminally and face up to three to five years in jail," criminal defense attorney David Schwartz said.

The two will be charged with disorderly conduct, Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi said during a press conference on Thursday night. It's a misdemeanor. They'll probably face a small fine.

CLICK HERE to view Part 1 of the video: The setup.

CLICK HERE to view Part 2 of the video: The launch.

CLICK HERE to view Part 3 of the video: The reaction.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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