Former TV Meteorologist Says Her Attack Claims Were Faked
NEW YORK – A TV meteorologist admitted Wednesday she'd made up claims of being repeatedly attacked by a stranger on the city streets, allegations that sparked an extensive investigation before police said she told them she'd invented the story to get attention.
Heidi Jones, who has worked for stations in New York and Texas and filled in on ABC's "Good Morning America," pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false-reporting charges.
Her plea deal calls for three years' probation, continuing psychiatric counseling and 350 hours of community service — the amount of time police spent looking into her phony claims, prosecutors said. Jones is due to be sentenced Oct. 26.
Jones wanted to take responsibility for the episode and express "her deepest regret and her apologies for any inconvenience that was caused," said her lawyer, Paul F. Callan. Jones declined to comment outside court, where her remarks were limited to yes-and-no answers to a judge's questions.
"Hopefully, this resolution today will make it possible for her to move on with her life and to make amends," Callan added.
Suspended after her December arrest, she no longer has her job at New York's local ABC station. Callan declined to comment on the circumstances of her departure.
Jones, 38, told police Dec. 1 the same man attacked her while she was running in Central Park last September and again outside her Manhattan apartment in November, authorities said.
After she provided a detailed description — including the alleged attacker's race, height and clothing — detectives spoke to possible witnesses and canvassed the area to look for a suspect.
Ultimately, when a detective interviewed Jones again around midnight on Dec. 13, she admitted she'd concocted the assaults, according to a court document prosecutors filed in January.
"I made it up for attention. I have so much stress at work, with my personal life and with my family," she said, according to the document.
Callan declined Wednesday to discuss what prompted Jones' fake claims.
Jones anchored weekend evening weather coverage during about five years at New York's WABC-TV. She previously worked in cities including Albany, N.Y., and Houston, where she once delivered a forecast while running a marathon.
Unemployed and struggling financially since her arrest, she has had to give up her former apartment, Callan said.
"She's paid a high price for the crimes she pleaded guilty to," he said.