Two Morris County men were so proud of pulling off a UFO hoax that they chronicled it in an online magazine. But the Morris County prosecutor regarded the stunt as a threat to aviation and tonight said he was filing disorderly person charges against Chris Russo, 29, and Joe Rudy, 28. Salesman Chris Russo of Morris Plains and science teacher Joe Rudy of Chester tied flares onto helium balloons and launched them in a nearby field on the border of Morris Plains and Hanover. “If there is a single word to describe this … it is in essence ‘stupidity’,” Prosecutor Robert Bianchi said at a press conference in Morristown. Bianchi said although there were indictable offenses with which he could have charged the men, he wanted to take a “measured approach” toward the offense.
Between early January and late February, Russo and Rudy used Duct tape, fishing line, roadside flares and balloons to pull off a hoax that had many in North Jersey wondering whether UFOs were hovering over Morris County. The hoax, which took place on five separate nights, involved the pair taping a car flare to fishing line, tying the line to a large helium balloon and launching the balloon into the night sky from a field in Hanover located between American Road and Hanover Avenue. They released as many as 11 balloons at once, all the time videotaping the glowing red lights bobbing and swaying above them.
The perpetrators would have remained unknown if they had not decided to chronicle their hoax on ESkeptic, thereby alerting authorities. In an interview today before the charges were filed, the two men defended the hoax as a “social experiment” and said it was an innocent effort to make people approach claims of the supernatural with a healthy dose of skepticism. The men stopped the hoax after Bianchi issued a statement asking the light-launchers to stop, saying the objects could interfere with aircraft traveling to airports in Morristown and Newark. Bianchi said the fact the two men had stopped their actions after the statement was a factor in the minor charge. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/two_morris_men_charged_in_ufo.html
Editors Note: MUFON Field Investigators Kristen Winslet and Matt Wilson investigated this case and quickly discerned the objects were flares tied to balloons.