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Balloon boy's dad says there was no hoax

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Heene: 'I knew son was in balloon'
  • Richard and Mayumi Heene said son was aloft in runaway homemade balloon
  • Boy said they did it "for the show" and parents pleaded guilty to hoax
  • Now Richard Heene says he only pleaded guilty to keep wife from deportation
  • Watch the full interview with Richard Heene on "Larry King Live", Friday 9 p.m. ET

Watch the full inteview with Richard Heene on "Larry King Live" on CNN, Friday 9 p.m. ET

(CNN) -- A man who pleaded guilty to perpetrating a hoax by falsely reporting that his son was drifting over eastern Colorado in a balloon maintains the incident was not part of a plan for fame in an interview with CNN's "Larry King Live."

Richard Heene pleaded guilty in November to a felony count of attempting to influence a public servant, and was sentenced last month to 90 days in custody, to begin January 11. He also must serve four years on probation and complete 100 hours of community service each year.

But Heene, in an interview airing Friday, told CNN's Larry King he pleaded guilty to save his wife, Mayumi, from being deported to Japan.

"I had to do it to save my family and my wife," he said, according to interview excerpts released Wednesday. "... We had applied years ago for some paperwork. Things got fouled up. We had to reapply so she should have been an American citizen by now, but anyway. I can't -- I can't break up my family."

Mayumi Heene pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to authorities in the incident involving the couple's 6-year-old son, Falcon. She was sentenced to 20 days in jail, but her term will begin after her husband's sentence ends, so their children will have a parent able to care for them.

Told about Heene's statements, Larimer County, Colorado, Sheriff Jim Alderden told King, "Quite honestly, I'm shocked that he would make such statements.

"The evidence against Mr. Heene and Mayumi at this point is really overwhelming. There is no doubt in my mind that this thing was a hoax, and I really doubt that there's very few people in America who don't understand at this point that this was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by Richard and Mayumi."

At the Heenes' sentencing, prosecutors outlined what they said was planning for the balloon flight, which they said was aimed at generating publicity for the couple, who sought a reality television show.

The incident occurred in October, when a large silver balloon came loose from its moorings in the Heenes' yard and drifted over eastern Colorado. Mayumi Heene called 911 and said Falcon was inside the craft.

Millions of people across the country watched the saga on television for nearly two hours as military aircraft tracked the balloon in the air and rescuers chased it below.

But in the interview airing Friday, Heene grew emotional as he recounted searching the house "high and low" for his son.

"You know, after I saw him in and out of this craft, and Bradford [Falcon's brother] told me that he went inside, at first I didn't believe Bradford," Heene told King. "And I told him that perhaps he's around. I just -- I just saw him."

"Sum and substance, you believed your son was in the craft?" King asked.

"I knew he was in the craft when I ..." Heene began.

"Well, you didn't know it, of course," King said.

"No, no, no. In my mind," Heene said. "In my mind. There was no other place, 'cause I visualized him. I yelled at him to -- to not go in."

The night of the incident, during an interview with "Larry King Live," the boy gave authorities what Alderden called an "Aha! moment."

"You guys said we did this for the show," Falcon said in the interview, when his father asked him why he had not come out from hiding when his parents were looking for him. At the time, the Heenes said their son was simply confused. Authorities said Mayumi Heene later admitted the whole thing was a hoax and that Falcon was safe in their home the whole time.

Asked about his son's remark in the interview, conducted last week, Heene said, "Well, first off, let's take into consideration he's only been speaking English and just learned 3½ years prior to that. He's 6 years old during this interview, number one. Number two, I had gotten back into the house after the initial -- talking to the press out in front of my house. I had opened the garage door to get my family back inside away from these guys. And I looked over, and there was 30 to 40 camera guys. I asked Falcon after that, I asked him -- I said, 'Why did you say that? What are you talking about?' And he said a Japanese cameraman from some -- old man, Johnny Camera, asked him to show him how he got into the attic for his TV show. That's why Falcon answered that."

But, he said, his son was not implying the family staged the incident for a reality show.

The full interview will air at 9 p.m. ET Friday.